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.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Robert Frost's poem Acquainted With the Night

50 Comments

  1. Leroy Osmon says:

    Is the Frost poem ‘Acquainted With The Night’ in public domain?

  2. Heather says:

    Themes of this poem: Depression, darkness, loneliness. I feel that this poem is a reflection of Frosts life up to this point. This poem was published in his volume West Running Brook in 1928. Mental illness ran in Robert Frosts family. Many of his family members have died at this point in his life, and some will die very soon.

    – he and his mother suffered from depression
    – wife also experienced depression
    – father died of tuberculosis in 1885 (Frost was 11)
    – mother died of cancer in 1900
    – son died of cholera in 1904
    – daughter died three days after birth in 1907
    – committed his younger sister to a mental hospital in 1920, where she died nine years later
    – daughter died as a result of puerperal fever after childbirth in 1934
    – wife had heart problems throughout her life & developed breast cancer in 1937 & died of heart failure in 1938
    – son committed suicide 1940
    – daughter Irma was committed to a mental hospital in 1947
    – Only two children outlived him (he had six children)

    The poem is all in past tense which shows he’s looking back or reflecting on something.

    Poem analyzed line-by-line:

    Acquainted With the Night
    Acquainted: 1. having personal knowledge as a result of study, experience, etc.; informed (usually followed by with) 2. brought into social contact; made familiar.
    Night symbolism: dark, lonely, sad, depressing
    He has personal knowledge, experienced and made familiar with sad, lonely times.

    I have been one acquainted with the night.
    I have been through bad times
    Reflecting back on a hard time in his life (past tense)

    I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.
    Spent a lot of time in depression

    I have outwalked the furthest city light.
    There have been points in my life where I have had no hope

    I have looked down the saddest city lane.
    ????

    I have passed by the watchman on his beat
    passed someone of importance
    the watchman is God

    And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
    Put on a brave face so that everyone thinks you’re fine
    doesn’t want to talk about his depression
    He thought about suicide, but was ashamed and didn’t want God to know

    I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
    People have stopped to help me

    When far away an interrupted cry
    Off in his own world

    Came over houses from another street,
    Too lost in his own world to help others

    But not to call me back or say good-bye;
    saying goodbye to his deceased family

    And further still at an unearthly height,
    Looking to religion to help him
    looking up at the moon

    One luminary clock against the sky
    symbolism for luminary = light & hope; clock = time (so in time there will be reason for hope)
    The moon, tells us what time it is like a clock—night time

    Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
    Lost track of time in his life
    Doesn’t really care what time it is; time doesn’t matter

    I have been one acquainted with the night.
    Reflecting on his life struggles from a present view

  3. Brittany says:

    Several people have mentioned they feel the “luminary clock” is actually the moon. I may be wrong, but I never viewed it as such. I think it really is a clock. “Unearthly height” to describe the distance of the moon seems pretty redundant of Frost– of course the moon is “unearthly” higher than the earth, because its not OF the earth to begin with, its the moon. The clock is AGAINST the sky, not IN the sky, because its just a really tall clock.

  4. laura woods says:

    The feelings that i see in this poem are that of routine and sadness. He almost seems forgotten. He knows exactly when and where something is going to happen. Every time he hears a noise, he hopes that it may be directed towards him. He is so used to the rhythm of this city and is bored perhaps.

  5. josh says:

    Robert Frost was indeed one of the most important and influential writers in the history of American Literature. His unique style and incredible use of symbolic meanings give his readers a deeper understanding of his works. In his poem, “Acquainted with the Night.” Frost uses symbolism and rhythm skims, Frost conveys a lonesome feeling of isolation through the speaker, who has done some thing awful in his life and is ashamed of it. Regardless of his wrong doing, he still has hope that he can over come his dark side.
    ‘Night’ in many poems is a symbol for death. However night in Frost’s poem “Acquainted with the Night” bought itself to many different interpretations that may change the entire poem’s deeper meaning. For example the literal meaning for night is the period of darkness between sunset and sunrise. So if the reader sees night in the poem as just the actual definition he will not truly understand the poem because he will wonder why the speaker keeps saying “I have been one acquainted with the night.” Acquainted means (Informed or familiar), so in that sense every one in the world is acquainted with actual, physical night. So the reader knows that night must have a more profound symbolic meaning.
    Night here can serve as a metaphor for the speaker’s depression, Depression that he most likely is ashamed of because the speaker in the poem says, “I have passed by the watchman on his beat And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain (Kyoko, Amano).” when he says, “I have looked down the saddest city lane.” He is probable looking back at a time when his depression was the worst it had ever been (Lauren). Another indication of depression occurs when the speaker says, “I have outwalked the furthest city light.” Since in most poems light is symbolic for hope and night in this poem is symbolic for depression. Than the conclusion is that the speaker has gone so deep in to his depression that he can no longer see hope or a way out and so he is acquainted with the night.
    Depression is not the only meaning night can have in this poem, however. Night may also represent the concept of the unexplored area of inner knowledge that every one has within (Kyoko). Since the speaker is acquainted with the night, he knows his darker inner self and for that he is truly unique, but he is also ashamed. “I have passed by the watchman on his beat And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.” The watchman’s purpose in the poem is to enforce regularity of the people traveling the roads (Macomb). In other words he makes individuals take the road more traveled, Such as in frost poem “the road not taken” where there are two roads. One road is the road more traveled which is a symbol for conformity. The other road is the less traveled one and it symbolizes the uniqueness of an individual. So the speaker is ashamed to look at the watchman because of his inner darkness and is unwilling to explain to him why he is not taking the road more traveled. His unwillingness to explain is the reason for his shame.
    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 (Teresa). 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 (Lauren).
    If the speaker in the poem is a female than the role of the moon takes on a more imperative meaning (Ashley). The moon could be the time of the month that a woman may or may not obtain pregnancy. The moon for a woman may symbolize a hope that she will get pregnant, but the only way this could be is if night symbolizes a woman’s fear of loneliness and isolation in society if she does not achieve pregnancy. If the speaker is a woman than the phase “I have been one acquainted with the night.” means she has tried many times to get pregnant. However she has failed and is familiar with the night that in the sense she knows how it feels to be isolated due to the fact that she can not get pregnant. In many poems rain symbolizes birth or a new begging, however rain in this poem is symbolic for pregnancy the phase “I have walked out in rain-and back in rain.” Means that she has been paginate numerous times before but something happened such as a miscarriage. The “saddest city lane” is a time in which she had a miscarriage or a lose of a child at birth. “I have looked down the saddest city lane.” “I have passed by the watchman on his beat and dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.” The reason why the speaker dropped her eyes in the face of the watchman is because she feels that it’s her fault that she lost a child due to a miscarriage. She is keeping all the pain inside and is putting herself deeper in to isolation. The “cry” symbolizes some body trying to reach out to her and help with her emotional distress. “One luminary clock against the sky Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.” symbolizes a longing for something which may never come such as the feeling that it is not her fault for the lose of her child. The time being neither wrong nor right could also symbolize that it may have not been the right time for her to have a child, but it wasn’t the wrong time either its no ones fault.

    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. 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 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. Since the poem goes in a full circle it is symbolic for the phases of depression. For example when an individual gets depression and over comes it, most of the time the depression resurfaces just like the poem does in returning to the begging.

    Frost‘s use of investing things with symbolism such as the night and the luminary clock is a masterful work of literature due to the fact that there are so many different meanings they can represent and hold true to. Also his rhythm sekm make his poem “acquainted with the night” have a deeper meaneing than just if he used symbolizem because the waitchman’s job can be felt subcanitolsly all the way thourgh the poem.

  6. Jeannie says:

    I am writing about this for school, which is kind of taking the fun out of it for me. It is without a doubt one of the most gorgeous and descriptive poems I have ever read. I have suffered so much with depression, and the poem really describes it for me. I need some help with a few lines of it, and if you are willing to do that I would really appreciate it. Just write a comment after mine saying you are willing and I will email you and tell you the questions. I hope no one gets mad that I am asking for help or anything. thanks!

  7. Melinda Loeak says:

    this poem is amazing. The author is showing some lonliness and depression when writing this one.

  8. Misti says:

    The poem makes me think of memories and maybe regret. Also experiences, or maybe even wanting something or wanting to be at a specific point in your life. being accustomed to lonliness and loss, but able to overcome it. Time is a powerful thing but you keep going.

  9. Alice says:

    This poem i think is about all the hard times that robert frost has been through in his life. For example he had lost 4 out of 6 children and he had many illnesses during his lifetime… one i think is cancer, and his worsening eyesight.

  10. MonkBoughtLunch says:

    My interpretation: This poem is a terza rima about how it feels to be homeless, the abandonment and loneliness that accompanies such a fate.

Leave a Reply to laura woods Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Robert Frost better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.