Neither Out Far Nor in Deep
by Robert Frost
Neither Out Far Nor in Deep Introduction
In A Nutshell
Let's do a little visualization exercise, Shmoopers.
Imagine you're on a beach vacation. You're sitting in your beach chair, toes in the sand, with a cool drink in your hand, and you're staring at the sea. What goes through your brain?
Maybe you think about how beautiful the weather is. Or you ponder popping out from under the umbrella and working on your tan. Or maybe you look forward to the next day, when you're totally going snorkeling. Or maybe—just maybe—you look out at the sparkling water and the crashing waves and you ponder the meaning of life.
Come on, Shmoopers, admit it: the beach has a way of bringing out deep thoughts in us humans. And that's just what Robert Frost is tackling in his classic "Neither Out Far Nor in Deep."
First published in 1936, Frost's poem isn't your typical example of the iconic American nature poet writing about boys swinging on birches. In "Neither Out Far Nor In Deep," our man gets a bit more abstract in his takeaway meaning. In fact, he full on barks up the truth tree. See, as the speaker of this poem stares out at the ocean, he can't help but search for meaning, and for the secrets behind life's mysteries.
That all sounds well and good—and profound. But there's just one problem, as Frost points out. While we're busy pondering life's mysteries and the great unknown, it's easy for us to take for granted all the little everyday miracles we can see. Of course, Frost's speaker isn't against pondering life's mysteries. He's just pointing out that a little balance might be in order.
Sounds like sound poetic advice to Shmoop.
Why Should I Care?
Ever seen Waterworld?
We're guessing the answer's no, because this wasn't exactly Kevin Costner at his finest. But bear with us.
See, this movie's all about a futuristic world in which the sea levels have risen so much that there's virtually no dry land left on the planet. And "Neither Out Far Nor In Deep" also provides some food for thought about what happens when we humans "turning our back on the land."
Whether we're daydreaming about mermaids or putzing around on social media, we tend to lose sight of the stuff we see on a regular basis in our world. In other words, we forget about the world that's right beneath our feet. You know, the place where real people live, love is found, and life is really lived. We're too busy thinking big. Thinking deep.
Sure the sea can be mesmerizing but we can't live there, right? (Again: see Waterworld.) Same goes for our profound ponderings. It may be fun to wax philosophical every once in a while, but we can't forget that so much of what's awesome about reality is made up of the everyday stuff right under our nose and right beneath our feet.