Acquainted with the Night is a poem about loneliness, sadness, solitude, and the complex emotions that surround these feelings. Written by Robert Frost in 1927 and it was published in the collection called “West-Running Brook ” in 1928.
Frost is to poetry what Ford is to automobiles. Whenever someone thinks of American poetry, Robert Frost is the name that first comes to mind. The more well-versed in American literature might get an image of Walt Whitman as well.
But while Whitman played with poetry by denouncing the need for rhyme and structure, Frost was the polar opposite of him. To Frost, poetry without rhyming was like “playing tennis without the net.”
Let’s take a look at the poem first and then at the meaning, and simplification of this beautiful expression of human emotion.
Acquainted with the Night by Robert Frost
I have been one acquainted with the night. I have walked out in rain—and back in rain. I have outwalked the furthest city light. I have looked down the saddest city lane. I have passed by the watchman on his beat And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain. I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet When far away an interrupted cry Came over houses from another street, But not to call me back or say good-bye; And further still at an unearthly height, One luminary clock against the sky Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right. I have been one acquainted with the night.
Simplification of the Poem
I am familiar with the night, I have known it well I have walked in rain, and then walked back again without waiting for it to stop I have walked so long to reach places where the city lights cannot reach I have looked down on the saddest places I have walked by the watchman who is patrolling the area But looked down to avoid telling him why I am walking there I stopped walking to hear the sound of a cry That came away from far from the houses On a distant street But the cry was not calling me back or saying good-bye and further in the sky, very high the moon was shining brightly It declared that the time was neither wrong nor right I am familiar with the night, I have known it very well.
Meaning of the Poem
Robert Frost has played with the idea of loneliness, the feeling of disconnect, and the need for solace. His poem “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” deals with a similar theme, albeit a bit darker.
But the poem has one confusing thing that is hard to explain. The last part of the poem is very difficult to understand. Why does he keep walking?
In “Acquainted with the Night,” Frost is trying to explain the need for being alone, the feeling one gets to just walk at night, away from the hustle and bustle of the city and of civilization.
The poem is not about night per se, but about walking away from people, and from the view of the public. It is about seeking loneliness, not running away from it. It is about being disconnected and discontent with the world.
The reason why Frost says that he is “acquainted” with the night indicates that he regularly takes these walks trying to get into the most desolate places, to be away from people.
Frost says that he has walked into such sad and troubled areas of the town where the watchman looks at him in doubt. These are perhaps the places where people do not generally walk, especially without a purpose.
Why Does He Walk?
The end of the second stanza and the rest of the poem hints at the possible reasons why he chooses to walk. Frost says that he drops his eyes when met with the watchman to avoid giving an explanation.
This hesitation is because the reason for him walking alone is he needs to be away from the world, something some people might not understand or find bizarre.
But what do the last stanza and the couplet mean? What about the calling of someone, someone crying, and the presence of the moon in the sky? Let us explain.
The Core Meaning of the Poem
When the poet hears the sound of an interrupted cry coming from far away, he stops and listens. The cry is neither to call him back nor to say goodbye and let him go. The cry is not for him.
Then he looks at the sky and sees the moon at an “unearthly” height. It is bright and works as a clock to give Frost an idea about the time of the night.
Frost says that the moon proclaims that the time was neither wrong nor right for him to go back to the town where people are. This is the reason why he is acquainted with the night.
The essence is that neither the moon nor the cry from the town tells him to either stop and come back or keep going. So he does whatever his heart feels like. He keeps walking to his heart’s content.
Themes of the Poem
The poem explores the themes of loneliness and solitude. It also hints at the idea of looking for a connection. Frost is acquainted with the night because he lacks a connection with anyone.
No one calls for him to come back, and the moon is also unbothered by his presence. He starts to like the feeling of walking alone in the darkness with his thoughts. The quietness of loneliness can be addicting.
While this sonnet seems very simple, it explores complex emotions such as alienation, connection, isolation, dependence on people, and the search for oneself.
General Information about the Poem
Acquainted with the Night is a sonnet of a different type. It is a Terza Rima which means that it has four stanzas of three lines and a couplet at the end. The rhyming pattern is ABA, BCB, CDC…
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