Week 470: Acquainted with the Night, by Robert Frost

When I first read this poem, which would have been in my teens, I’m pretty sure I got it badly wrong. Personally ever since I was a child I have loved being out at night – the moon casting its copper glow on flat white shapes of broken cloud like ice-floes, the peppery scent of leaves in the autumnal darkness of a lane, in winter the gray silk of frost on pavements glittering with a million points of light – and I took this at first to be a celebration by a fellow enthusiast, similarly revelling in the quiet and solitude. It later dawned on me that this was much more a poem of alienation, in which Frost is using external darkness to mirror the darker side of his own often troubled mind. And yet I wonder if I was not totally wrong the first time, if there is after all a hint of relish in that alienation, that apartness, in being, as Frost puts it in another poem, ‘the exception/I like to think I am in everything’. Either way, it is a fine evocation of that halfworld that most of us these days simply draw the curtains against.

Acquainted with the Night

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.

Robert Frost

5 thoughts on “Week 470: Acquainted with the Night, by Robert Frost

  1. I love this, always have – and I think you are probably right about the sense of alienation, sought out by, and reinforced by, wandering the night…

  2. thanks for sharing this – the darkness of mood is there but I too feel there is a strong literal intention to this poem perhaps because I like all the wanderings he describes and furthermore being a poor sleeper I am acquainted with the night –

    • Yes I always think of this as the observations of an insomniac. It reminds me of my brother, who, an incurably bad sleeper, has indeed “outwalked the furthest city light”

      • Hahaha! You are right to pull me up on my sloppy writing!
        Yes, he has come back, many a time.
        I was always more likely not to return…even as a child I used to walk down the road with a stick and spotted hanky.
        ‘Bindlestiff’ I think is the word?

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