Attempt a critical appreciation of the following poem, comparing and contrasting it with "Mending Wall"

Neighbour
Iain Crichton Smith

Build me a bridge over the stream
to my neighbour’s house
where he is standing in dungarees
in the fresh morning.

O ring of snowdrops
spread wherever you want
and you also blackbird
sing across the fences.

My neighbour, if the rain falls on you,
let it fall on me also
from the same black cloud
that does not recognise gates.

Sample Answer


"Mending Wall" is a very popular poem by the famous American poet, Robert Frost.  Although it appears to be a simple poem at the first glance, it actually yields to multiple interpretations at various levels.  But primarily the poem is about walls and their relevance.  In the poem "Neighbour" Ian Crichton deals with a very similar theme.  It is about building bridges across obstacles that separate neighbours.

There is a vivid rustic image of two neighbours separated by a stream in between.  The poet can clearly see across as his neighbour is ready for work in the morning wearing dungarees.  The poet wishes to have a bridge over the stream connecting both of them.  In the poem "Mending Wall" also, we see two neighbours.  But they are busy repairing the damaged wall between their properties.  

Both neighbours in "Mending Wall" wish for good neighbourly relationship. Their argument is only on whether the wall is helping them maintain this relationship or not.  One sees the wall as an obstacle.  The other sees it as an advantage.  The same wish for a warm relationship with his neighbour is expressed in a more emotional manner in the poem "Neighbour."  Nature doesn't discriminate.  Birdsongs, snowfall and raindrops do not recognise gates.  When the poet says that the black cloud does not recognize gates, it sounds very similar to the line, "there is something in nature that doesn't love a wall."

Although very emotional and appealing, the poem "Neighbour" is pretty straightforward and is not open to multiple interpretations as in the case of "Mending Wall".  This need not be seen as a demerit, but in comparison, Frost's poem seems to have greater depth.  Both the poems succeed in creating lasting visual images in the minds of readers. Just like the visual images of the stream and the neighbour in dungarees, the auditory image of the song of the blackbird, and the tactile image of the rain falling on you are equally memorable.  

"Neighbour" is a much shorter poem in comparison to "Mending Wall".  So, we may not be able to pick many figures of speech except probably the personification of the black cloud.  But this does not diminish its beauty.  Both poems do not follow a fixed rhyme scheme.

The poems of Frost and Smith are based on a similar theme, but they follow different paths in their execution and the final effect.  It is quite unfair to judge the merit of one based on the other as they serve the reader in different ways.  While one touches you emotionally, the other opens doors for a more intellectual involvement.