They look at the sea all day.

Many critics have analyzed this poem by Robert Frost. I found it helpful to read some of their ideas gathered on this page. Though I love to look at the sea, never have I done it (even metaphorically) for even one whole day; an hour now and then is healthful to the soul. This poem flows like the waves washing up on a beach and receding again…

NEITHER OUT FAR Nor IN DEEP

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?

-Robert Frost

GL 10 P1020097 sandpipers

8 thoughts on “They look at the sea all day.

  1. I lived on-board for a number of months- also lived in view of the ocean for years when I lived in the VI. It’s a view you never grow tired of. Now as I drive over the plains and see the bluest Oklahoma skies with white-capped clouds I’m reminded of the same feelings the sea-sights gave me.

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  2. A deceptively simple but important line for me is, “The water comes ashore.” From the vastness and the depths something mysterious but familiar keeps on approaching. There is energy in that expanse of apparent emptiness; not recognizable life exactly, but a force that drives towards the living–unlike the emptiness and quiet of a night sky or the frozen variety of landscapes. We wouldn’t stand all night and look at the stars–maybe for a short time, but then we lose interest because it is so remote and overwhelming. We stare hardly at all at outlines of hills or distant fields, or if so, only to look for signs of life: animals, birds, a farmer on a tractor. The movement of cars is all too familiar, mundane. But it’s true about the sea–you can always come upon groups or lone forms, backs to the land, staring out at the water. And always the persons are standing. Frost is talking here about a spontaneous form of wordless prayer, I think.

    Thanks for calling our attention to the role of art in looking both far and deep!

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  3. What a lovely poem. I need to go to the beach, to enjoy the view and healing waters, and to pick up some beauties off the beach.

    Thank you so much for your prayers and your kind comments on my blog. God is Great, and He is Good.

    Love & hugs ~ FlowerLady

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  4. A new Frost poem to me – one I’ve never read before! Thank you so much. Like another commenter above, I found the line “The water comes ashore” to be so important. It’s the thing the sea does that the land can’t do, the thing that keeps the people staring at it — it moves. It encroaches. It’s ever shifting and changing. It’s that lapping in and out that is so soothing. That last stanza – the sea itself is both far and deep; it’s the people who are incapable of seeing either. Very nice, GJ.

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  5. An admirer of Frost since my high school days, this poem is new to me. The last stanza concludes so eloquently the unique character of the sea, its effervescent mobility, its enormous ability to push the wavy envelope, if you will, in its constant attempt to seek new adventures. And, although it, too, has its limitations, never quite making it further inland, but only to the earth’s shores, in its repeated motivation, the importance is in the process, the effort, much like the daily routine of our lives that enables us to move forward, to accomplish our own personal ambitions. At the end of the day, at the end of one’s life, it is, after all, the journey itself and not the destination that forms our individuality, as the last station is the same for all.

    Thank you, Gretchen Joanna for sharing this wonderful and wise work of art, undoubtedly, a piece of the poet’s own puzzle on life.

    Happy weekend to you,
    Poppy

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