Acquainted with the Night by Robert Frost: Poem Interpretation
Interpretation of “Acquainted with the Night”
“Acquainted with the Night” by Robert Frost is a melancholy poem depicting a lonely ritual. The poet tells of journeying into the night away from the city. He describes the sights and sounds heard on this nightly venture and implies how it makes one feel. The person in the poem has experienced all these different scenarios upon this journey and now reflects with acceptance. Humans need solitary time to experience their surroundings, to take a step back from society and just listen to the glorious quiet of the night.
Not many people can proclaim they “have been one acquainted with the night” (Frost 1). To have observed, witnessed, or stayed awake and reflected on their day in the quiet, dark, still of a night. That is scary for a lot of people; to spend time in your mind. Even the poet says “I have passed by the watchman on his beat/And dropped my eyes/unwilling to explain” (5-6). Like a pilgrimage, this is a journey intended for one’s own purpose. No need to explain why the person is doing what they are doing, yet we sense from them dropping their eyes that it is almost shameful. A very natural reaction for someone who is spending their time in the dark. If that is what you are doing, then, of course, you do not wish to be around anyone.
The need for solitary reflections in a natural surrounding is important to the human condition. Frost describes all these things that have been either witnessed or heard upon these nightly ventures. To “have walked out in rain-and back in rain” (2) that most people would prefer to stay inside. To “have outwalked the furthest city light” (3); to go beyond your comfort zone. Things that would be scary to most people are necessary for reflection in this poem. The line “I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet” (7) is easy to imagine. The actual act of stopping the only noise in the night (the sound of your feet) and just listening in the black, still air. What can you hear? What will you experience? The uncertain scares people.
What is heard in the night is accepted as normal occurrences of life. “When far away an interrupted cry/Came over houses from another street/But not to call me back or say good-by” (8-10). They have stopped the sound of his feet right as this “cry” came out of the night. Remaining observant of this sound, but does not let it falter them. It is not of concern, it is not for him. The sounds is not taken as a sign to return from his walk, but as an instance of human nature or a normal occurrence; the cry does “not call me back or say good-by” (10). He is accepting of what happens when one is acquainted with the night as people should be accepting of situations that occur in their own lives.
There is always time for reflection. There is always time to experience an inner journey while taking a physical one. For “further still at an unearthly height/One luminary clock against the sky/Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right” (11-13) depicts a sense of assurance. This event is normal and necessary to be able to reflect. He has taken a cue from nature as reassurance that, yes, this is what I should be doing at this exact moment. That wherever he is, is wherever he needs to be; that moment of true inner peace. Frost even repeats his first line at the end “I have been one acquainted with the night” (14) for emphasis of this experience.
A basic part of the human condition is a period of reflection. For Frost, this meant a journey into the night. Something that seems so lonely and melancholy with a twist of inner peace by the end. Everything he has experienced on this walk has only made him feel reassured in that last moment. There was never a wrong time or place to have a journey of self-reflection.
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