Good fences make good neighbours... (Phrase popped to mind because it occurred in this week's "wordzzle" creative writing challenge that I'm partaking in...)I have enough problems keeping up with the rest of the blogs and the Wordzzle challenge seemed a bit cerebrally challenging as well as time consuming so I haven't been following it. Doing a Scriptor I wondered where the saying came from because I was not sure that I understood nor agreed with it. The line is listed by the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations as a mid 17th century proverb, which was given a boost in the American consciousness due to its prominence in the metaphorical poem Mending Wall by the American poet Robert Frost.
The more times I read it the more I came to the conclusion that it was suggesting that, however close one was to a friend, there should always be an ultimate fence between two people. I really found this hard to agree with. Then I discovered that, whatever I thought, the overwhelming evidence was against me:
Quoting from The Twenty-First Katharine Briggs Memorial Lecture, November 2002:
People everywhere and at all times have seen the pros and cons of a fence marking property lines and keeping people from infringing on each other's space. Some of them are similar to the basic idea of the proverb "Good fences make good neighbours" that advocates some distance between neighbours: "There must be a fence between good neighbours" (Norwegian), "Between neighbours' gardens a fence is good" (German), "Build a fence even between intimate friends" (Japanese),"Love your neighbour, but do not throw down the dividing wall" (Indian [Hindi]), and "Love your neighbour, but put up a fence" (Russian). There is even the German proverb "A fence between makes love more keen". If only social and political walls could bring about love between the parties! As in the late medieval Latin proverb Bonum est erigere dumos cum vicinis ("It is good to erect hedges with the neighbours"), folk wisdom states again and again that some distance between neighbours might be a good idea for the sake of privacy.Another case of 'Ah well....'