Literature Study GuidesThe Poems Of Robert FrostNeither Out Far Nor In Deep Summary

The Poems of Robert Frost | Study Guide

Robert Frost

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The Poems of Robert Frost | Neither Out Far nor In Deep | Summary



People on a beach all face in one direction, out to sea. As a ship passes, it can be seen with its hull above the horizon. The wet sand at the shoreline reflects a gull. The land's topography may be more varied, but the water keeps coming to the shore while the people all remain looking to the sea. Although they can see neither deeply nor widely, that doesn't stop them from staring out to sea.


"Neither Out Far nor in Deep" was published in A Further Range (1936). The poem is set on the beach, with people looking out to sea as "They turn their back on the land." The people seem to be there for recreation, to escape their everyday lives on the land. The land, therefore, is their normal reality, and they've turned their backs on it. The sea, however, is something else, but it's not clear from the first lines exactly what that is. It appears bland and unvaried. There's little to look at except a ship passing that "keeps raising its hull." Still, there's some powerful attraction in the sea.

The third stanza is key. "The land may vary more," the speaker says, "But whatever the truth may be— / the water comes ashore." Thus, the sea is associated with truth, and it keeps coming to shore, toward the people. They are, apparently, looking for the truth, for wisdom or knowledge, something more than they have found in their ordinary, everyday reality. Unfortunately, the speaker tells us in stanza 4, "They cannot look out far. / They cannot look in deep." This is quite an indictment of the people on the shore, who certainly stand for all humanity. People seek wisdom and truth, but they lack the capacity to get very far in their search. That, according to this speaker, is humanity's lot.

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