What concerns American man while reposing beside Swinburne's "great sweet mother, mother and lover of men, the sea"? Beside Miami's Atlantic the great waxings and wanings of the Dow-Jones average are what matter most.

"An ocean is forever asking questions and writing them aloud along the shore," said Edwin Arlington Robinson. On Cape Cod, as they have been doing since Emerson passed by, people are still trying to come up with the answers.

Have dominion over the fish of the sea, God hath commanded His children, and along Cape Hatteras they take Him intently at His word. And that's the way it works out. Ninety-nine times out of 100, anyhow.

The poor man in his boat, Horace noted, gets as sick as the rich man on his yacht. Which may explain the oceangoing mansions in Newport, R.I. Aboard one of these a party guest can have his cake—and eat it, too.

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer," Thoreau concluded. What made sense for Henry at Walden Pond is just as apt for Polly at Point Dume, Calif.

Drawings from life on the fringe of America's oceans by Arnold Roth