Poetry 106: Neither Out Far Nor In Deep by Robert Frost

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The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.

As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull.

The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be—
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.

They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?

Image courtesy of www.pixabay.com

About Barry Daniel

I live in the Lake District in the UK where I run a guesthouse with my partner Kate and my cat Manuel. I enjoy painting, hillwalking, reading, visiting and entertaining friends, T’ai Chi and playing the guitar. I’m engaged to a certain degree in the local community, as a volunteer with Samaritans and I’m a fairly active member of the local Green party. I’ve had a relatively intuitive sense of the Middle Way most of my adult life but it found a greater articulation and a practical direction through joining the society. It’s also been interesting and great fun engaging with other people with a similar outlook. My main contribution to the society is conducting the podcast interviews, something that gives me a lot of satisfaction and that I’ve learnt a lot from.

One thought on “Poetry 106: Neither Out Far Nor In Deep by Robert Frost

  1. I haven’t come across this before, and I like the combination of acute observation and symbol. The idea that the people may be looking out to sea for some kind of hoped-for truth or fulfilment is just hinted at in ‘wherever the truth may be’, but not overdone. Why do people look out to sea? Some suggest we like open spaces because of our ancestry on the savannah, and we feel unconsciously comfortable being able to glimpse danger a long way off. But whatever the reason, looking at an open space such as the sea is often associated with more open mental states.

    The other symbolic association this triggered in me was the passage at the beginning of the Udana (in the Buddhist Pali Canon) in which the gradual nature of the beach and sea is compared to that of the Buddha’s teachings. That makes a good symbol for incrementality, which is why I have taken to using a beach for that purpose (e.g. in http://www.middlewaysociety.org/audio/middle-way-philosophy-introductory-videos/mwp-video-4-incrementality/ ). On a gradually sloping beach, you can go as far into the sea as you’re ready to go, and let yourself adjust to the cold (in British seas, anyway!) as you go.

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