The important thing for me in “The Moon is distant from the Sea —”, by Emily Dickinson, is the role of influence to define the relationship of one over another. But, what comprises influence? I don’t think love, per se, is the subject of the poem.

The Moon is distant from the Sea — 

And, yet, with Amber Hands — 

She leads Him — docile as a Boy — 

Along appointed Sands — 


He never misses a Degree — 

Obedient to Her eye — 

He comes just so far — toward the Town — 

Just so far — goes away — 


Oh, Signor, Thine, the Amber Hand — 

And mine — the distant Sea — 

Obedient to the least command

Thine eye impose on me — 

If moon equals mood, as I think it does, then therein is the power. It doesn’t matter that distance separates: “Moon is distant”. Touch is irrelevant to the ability to lead. Where intimacy is strong, mood is the energy that controls. “She leads Him — docile as a Boy — ”.

While the sea, “the boy,” may appear to threaten the town at high tide, the unseen force is the true tale. “Obedient to Her eye — /He comes just so far —…”.

I think of the emphasis lately on the national and world mood. Global mood, more than the actions of the powerful, is seen as the cause of potential collapse of the civilized world. 

Yesterday, I couldn’t shake an aggressive mood. I felt I could argue with a tree if it stood in my way. The mood I was in could have alienated me from the people I talked with, unnecessarily. While waiting for someone, without at first realizing it, my body language  – left arm bent and perched on my hip and the opposite leg angled in opposite direction – said, “don’t mess with me!” No one was around.

The final stanza brings home the intimacy involved, self with self or with another: “Obedient to the least command/Thine eye impose on me —”.


Digest A Poem A Day — Accept What Comes Your Way