When his boat snapped loose
from its mooring, under
the screaking of the gulls,
he tried at first to wave
to his dear ones on shore,
but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.
Too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling,
somehow he felt absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag:
conscience, ambition, and all
that caring.
He was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the slop of his cradle,
buffeted by the storm,
endlessly drifting.
Peace! Peace!
To be rocked by the Infinite!
As if it didn’t matter
which way was home;
as if he didn’t know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Stanley Kunitz's poem The Long Boat


  1. Vinnie says:

    This is a good poem.

  2. Judith Graham says:

    This poem spoke to me directly about the end of life, leaving all things, although one loves the earth–all thingswill leave at the time of death or even extreme old age. Then our standards and our attachments are cast in an extreme shadow, as if paltry things, no longer of the essence. Yet there is not a reprieve from such a conclusion. The poet’s kindly expression on a National Public Radio site, which quoted this poem, is different from the uncompromising nature of the meaning as I understand it.
    It seemed to me a wonderful contribution.

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