In "Mending Wall," why does the speaker meet his neighbor beyond the hill in the spring?

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cneukam1379 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The speaker of the poem meets his neighbor every spring "to walk the line / And set the wall between us once again" (l. 13-14).  This is a ritual that the two perform every year because there seems to be "something" that does not want the wall there: "Something there is that doesn't love a wall, / That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, / And spills the upper boulders in the sun" (ll. 1-3).  The speaker then begins to wonder what that "something" is that keeps toppling the wall.  He wonders if hunters have come along and toppled the stone wall: "But they would have the rabbit out of hiding, / To please the yelping dogs" (ll. 8-9).  But he is unsure because "No one has seen them made or heard them made" (l. 10).  However, as the speaker and his neighbor start to mend the wall, the speaker begins to question the necessity of the wall because there is no need for it; neither man owns cows or other animals where walls or fences are needed to contain them. It is at this point in the poem where the speaker becomes silly and even mentions "elves" as the thing that wants the wall down (l. 36).  Nevertheless, this mending of the wall is a ritual for the neighbor.  He does not question the necessity of the wall but repeats, "Good fences make good neighbors," a phrase his father used and which the neighbor is repeating.