Comment 24 of 411, added on December 11th, 2005 at 5:38 PM.
In Robert Frost’s “Acquainted with the Night”, the speaker can be any one
of a number of people. To define the speaker generally, the speaker is
someone who has a story to tell, and is proud of that story. This story
holds so much importance for them that if they were dying and were able to
have only one more conversation they would talk about how they had become
“acquainted with the night”. This story describes such a personally
meaningful journey, that it becomes more than just a tale; it becomes a
legacy. The listener could be anybody who had inquired about the story that
the speaker has to tell. I like to entertain the idea that this poem is a
long-lost uncle’s narrative to his nephew upon their first meeting. The
uncle feels that this story gives his nephew an accurate impression of who
he is, of where he has been, and what he may try to do next.
The meaning that I obtained after reading “Acquainted with the Night” is
that it is important to recognize the value of non-conformity. Great
gratification can be obtained by reducing intellectual and emotional input
until you arrive at the stillness of your soul.
The imagery in “Acquainted with the Night” is peculiar in that most of its
sensory details are presented through the sense of hearing. The “Sound of
feet” and an “interrupted cry” through the darkness are the two most vivid
images in the poem. This lack of visual details makes the reader feel that
they are either blind, or cloaked in complete darkness. Most of the vivid
visual details are implied. The only concrete visual detail is when the
reader is presented with the image of the “luminary clock against the sky”.
Since the clock is the only thing that is explicitly seen, it takes on a
startling importance. The idea of the “time” being “neither wrong nor
right” in the poem can be taken to reflect Frost’s perception of waiting
for something in his life, longing for something which may never come.
The fact that throughout the poem the speaker is essentially alone gives
the symbolism a new spin. From the author’s loneliness it appears that he
is on the ‘road less traveled’. Thus, the “saddest city lane” that he
looks down could be interpreted as the road more traveled. The watchman in
the speaker’s path intimidates him, because the speaker “dropped his eyes,
unwilling to explain”. If the speaker even thought that an explanation
would have been necessary, we can imply that the watchman was blatantly not
of the same mind as the speaker. The sole purpose of a watchman on the
path of the unique would be to encourage the unique to return to the road
more traveled. The watchman epitomizes “The Man” of the punk rock
counterculture because of his position of power. Loneliness itself comes
to be symbolized by the night into which the narrator walks.
The rhythm of “Acquainted with the Night” is extremely steady. The entire
poem is in perfect iambic pentameter. The rhyme scheme serves to draw the
poem together as a whole. The first stanza rhymes in an A, B, A pattern.
The next stanza rhymes B, C, and B. The rhyme of the first and last lines
of the next stanza is introduced in the second line of the preceding
stanza. This gives the poem a feeling of smooth continuity. This pattern
continues until the very last stanza, which is a couplet that returns to
the first (A) rhyme. This repetition of the initial rhyme draws the
reader’s attention back to the beginning, bringing the poem full circle.
Another aspect of the poem that adds to its smoothness is the nearly
perfect iambic pentameter that it is written in. Since the purpose of a
watchman is to enforce regularity, the dominance of the watchman’s power is
shown through the smoothness and regularity of this poem.
This poem could belong to the musical genre of punk rock. One of major
aspects of the punk counterculture group, non-conformity, is one of the
themes expressed in this poem. The reference to “The Man” (in the form of
a watchman) in the second stanza reflects another counterculture ideal:
unwillingness to explain, or opposing the authorities who suppress
When I first read this poem the only emotion that I felt was loneliness.
However, when I read this poem for a second time I was able to pick out a
few more emotions that the author expressed. The dominant emotion when I
read this poem for the second time was pride in solitude. The author’s
tone which I perceived, had changed from one of near-shame to one of pride
in his accomplishments. When the narrator talks about the voice that
calls out to him, “but not to call me back or say good-bye”, the author
seems nonchalant and defiant in the second reading. Frost conveys the
feeling that the speaker neither wants nor needs the person to which the
voice belonged. I think the speaker simply needed time alone in which to
relax and enjoy the sense of peace in solitude that the night can bring.
He walked out alone not knowing what he was seeking… and found himself.