Study Guide

Neither Out Far Nor in Deep Stanza 1

By Robert Frost

Stanza 1

Lines 1-2

The people along the sand
All turn and look one way. 

  • Sounds simple enough. We've got some folks along the sand that are all looking one way. It's like they're one big mass of humanity, without any distinguishing characteristics or actions.
  • What else do we know? Well, we're in a sandy setting, which means we're probably at the beach (or, okay, maybe the desert).
  • Notice the speaker's diction? It adds to the generalizing feel. He uses words like "the people," "all," and "one way." Not much individuality going on here, right? 
  • We have a pretty clear exercise in meter here too. Hear that daDUM daDUM sound? That's called iambic trimeter. That means we've got three iambs in a row in each line. We can hear it really clearly in line 2: "all turnand look oneway." Check out "Form and Meter" for more.

Lines 3-4

They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.

  • By line 3 we're starting to see a stark contrast between sea and land. The two are pretty different, right? But how?
  • To suss that out, we've got to ask ourselves what we associate with each. In this poem, the land is where the people are—it's the human world, the finite world, the world with, well, stuff.
  • And the sea? Well that's a bit more infinite. When we look at the sea, we think of all those intangible and mysterious qualities of life. You know, the deep stuff. 
  • (For more on this, check out critic Randall Jarrell's take on this difference between the "finite and the infinite" which the land and sea respectively appear to represent here.)
  • In these lines, the people "turn their back on the land" which suggests that they've turned their backs on all those associations we've mentioned above. They're not interested in the stuff of life—the human world. 
  • And what do they do instead? They look at the sea all day and ponder all the mysterious and intangible stuff the sea is associated with.
  • With the end of the first stanza comes a rhyme scheme. In this case, we're looking at our old friend ABA: "sand" rhymes with "land" and "way" rhymes with "day."
  • Between the rhyme scheme and the meter, it looks as if Frost is keeping things pretty conventional when it comes to form. No crazy experiments going on here. 
  • But still, we think he's shaking things up in a different way. When you think of fancy, perfectly metered and rhymed poetry, you usually think of old-fashioned language and high falutin' subject matter. But in this case, the speaker is using pretty colloquial diction. This poem sounds a lot like it could be spoken by an average Joe. What do you make of that, Shmoopers?