|ON THE BEACH|
July 16, 1998
ROBERT PINSKY, Poet Laureate: For a lot of us summertime being near the ocean, driving toward it in cars, wading into it for a dip, listening to it, eating the things that live in me, maybe even sailing on it, and spending a lot of time just sitting and looking at it.
Here's Robert Frost's meditation on that custom:
"Neither Out Far Nor in Deep."
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
The land may vary more
They cannot look out far.
Frost's poem is about facing the ocean and looking at it.
Elizabeth Bishop writes about wading into it and develops an image for the waves. In her poem they're like chariots. The chariot wheels are armed with sharp, bright blades that turn as they charge forward, then collapse to charge again.
"Wading at Wellfeet:"
the chariot first saw the light
that bore sharp blades around its wheels.
That chariot from Asyria
A thousand warriors in the sea
but hasn't put in action yet.
Lying so close they catch the sun,
The war rests wholly with the waves:
That rhythm charging forward liked armed chariots and collapsing, charging, collapsing again, that's the deeply soothing of the surf. I wish it to you in whatever watch you keep.