What kind of text is Robert Frost's "Mending Wall"? How do you know ?

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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the most difficult things to do with poetry is to analyze its meter. In fact, meter is rarely even taught in high school anymore, and not many college classes concern themselves with it either. Unless you are an English major you have probably never had to work with terms like iambic, trochaic, spondiac, anapestic or dactylic. Yes, those words really mean something. They refer to the pattern and number of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of poetry, the units of sound that give poetry its rhythm.

“Mending Wall” is obviously a poem. But what kind of poem?

First of all, it doesn't rhyme. Despite what many high school students might say, a poem doesn't have to rhyme to be good poetry. In fact, forcing certain words into a poem simply because they rhyme with other words can ruin a poem.

Although “Mending Wall” doesn't rhyme, it does possess another key element of most poetry: a defined meter. This poem's meter is called blank verse. Blank verse is unrhymed poetry that contains ten syllables per line. Within each line, the syllables are alternately stressed and unstressed.

An analysis of “Mending Wall” shows that within its 44 lines there are 31 ten-syllable lines. The other 13 lines are eleven-syllable lines. So Frost plays a little fast and loose with the precise definition of the term, but he probably wasn't worried about sticking to the exact rules of meter. Poets don't mind breaking the rules at all, as long as it helps them express their message more forcefully.

So, after all that, the answer to your question is: Frost's “Mending Wall” is blank verse poetry.