"Where Lies the Land?" by Arthur Hugh Clough

Essay by maloka May 2007

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This poem is considered to be one of the most optimistic poems the reader can ever meet. The speaker here is cheerful and positive , a person who is looking at the positive side in life. Using this image of infinite sea and a ship which is in the middle of this sea is simply a direct image that resembles life and how man is like a sailor who is trying to steer the rudder of his life smoothly and effectively no matter what hardships or obstacles (icebergs) he might meet.

The poem opens with number of rhetorical questions that sets the scene and enables the reader to visualise it "Where lies the land to which the ship would go?" This question surprises the reader and ironically fools the reader into thinking that the speaker is a lost person who is looking for his targeted destination . "Far, far ahead", in fact the effectiveness of this image lies in the fact that it represents man's life .Man

here became like this ship whose life lies ahead of him . The use of "far" twice reflects the length of this journey which seems to any person as endless one. The speaker poses another question that reflects his preplexity "and where the land she travels from? Away, Far, far behind, is all that they can say" ,here the persona is actually uncertain where he came from and where he is heading to. However, the questions is not the place of landing ,but how he is going to land. The path is what matters not the mean. Nevertheless, despite the great confusion and uncertainity the reader feels through the speaker's tone, yet the objectivity and enthusiasim is apparent here.

The speaker in the second stanza moves into describing a sunny day, quite...