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‘Acquainted with the Night’ is a poem written by the American poet Robert Frost. It was first published in 1927 in the magazine ‘Virginia Quarterly Review.’ The poem primarily meditates on the isolation of a lonely person.
Unlike other poems of Frost where the setting is mostly a country-side is, this poem portrays the urban scenario. It can also be seen as one of the ‘journey poems’ written by Frost. The degree of comfort which the narrator has with his isolation is ambiguous.
As a sonnet, it has 14 lines divided into 5 stanzas. The meter is iambic pentameter. The poem is largely discussed by critics in comparison to Dante’s Inferno because of its rhyming scheme which is ‘terza rima.’ The rhyming pattern was created by Dante. It is also known as ‘interlocking rhyme.’
The poem begins as a soliloquy. The narrator expresses his awareness of the night and its true nature. When he says that he is acquainted with the night, it feels like his familiarity has a sort of disenchantment. The rain has multiplied one’s loneliness.
The narrator has confronted it fully as he has walked out in rain – and back in rain. Embracing his loneliness, he has walked too long. He has walked so long that he outwalked the furthest city light. Here, the isolation is that of an urban man. The narrator has reached where the city ends.
The night is full of sadness for the narrator. He is projecting his inner state unto the city lane when he says that he has looked down the saddest city lane. He walks past the watchman and drops his eyes.
Frost was a very shy person. He looks down so that he won’t have to explain anything to the watchman. It is not his incapacity that he can’t explain, rather he is unwilling to explain. He is not in a mood. He is too sad for any human conversation.
The narrator is idle. He is describing that while walking somewhere he stopped. It was so silent that while walking the only sound which came was from his own feet. So, it also stopped. In the city, there are people everywhere. The silence is interrupted when a cry came from the neighboring street.
The narrator had stopped with anticipation after listening a cry from the other street. But it was not meant for him. In his loneliness, he is probably waiting for any human to contact him.
No cry was calling him back or saying good-bye. He must have looked towards the sky. He saw that there was one luminary clock against the sky at an unearthly height. One may simply say that it was the moon. Or it is the idea of time. Here, the poem asks us to explore its depth.
That luminary clock proclaimed that the time was neither wrong nor right. Frost often shows the indifference of Nature towards the feeling of human beings.
Such a moment put an individual into contemplation. Such a feeling has come from the narrator’s innermost loneliness. It is humanity’s place in the universe.