ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Robert Frost's "Acquainted with the Night"

Updated on December 12, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Robert Frost

Source

Introduction

Robert Frost's "Acquainted With the Night" is an American, or Innovative, sonnet.

Frost's American sonnet features four tercets in terza rima, a form made famous by Dante, and a Shakespearean couplet.

The speaker in Robert Frost's American sonnet reveals his rebellious nature, proclaiming his individual prerogative to venture into the city at night.

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.

Frost reading his poem "Acquaianted with the Night"

First Tercet: "I have been one acquainted with the night"

The speaker claims that he has "been one acquainted with the night." He and night are not friends but merely acquaintances. After reporting that he knows something about night time in the city, he gives some examples.

The speaker is acquainted with the night because he has taken many walks down city streets, even in rain—he has "walked out in rain — and back in rain."

The speaker has walked so far that he has "outwalked the furthest city light." The speaker, of course, means "farthest" here, and there is no other reason to account for his use of "furthest" but that he made an error.

Second Tercet: "I have looked down the saddest city lane"

The speaker continues his list of night observations to support his claim that he has, in fact, been acquainted with the night.

On one such walk, he has "looked down the saddest city lane." This observation demonstrates that he has not merely walked in pleasant areas like the town square or to the movies, but he has even ventured to where there is poverty and maybe even squalor.

The speaker has even been out so late that he has encountered security guards, and on the occasion of meeting one of these "watchm[en]," he has "dropped [his] eyes, unwilling to explain."

The speaker did not feel obliged to explain to some watchman why he was out walking so late at night.

Of course, the guard might have stopped him and asked him to explain anyway, even though he dropped his eyes, but apparently he was lucky enough to escape without being accosted.

Third Tercet: "I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet"

On occasion during one of these late night city walking tours, he has suddenly caught the sound of some "interrupted cry" that carried from "over houses from another street." Thus, he stopped to listen.

Fourth Tercet: "But not to call me back or say good-bye"

But as the speaker listened to that "interrupted cry," he realized that it was not someone calling him.

At first upon hearing the cry, the speaker seemed to think that someone was either calling for him to return or just to tell him good-bye, but he realizes that no one is calling him so he continues.

At this point, the speaker notices a clock face in a clock tower which is "further still at an unearthly height." Again, he means "farther" because the clock appears at a great distance from him. It is not only far, but so high that it seems not of the earth.

Some readers have interpreted the "luminary clock against the sky" to be the moon, but Frost revealed that it was a clock tower in Ann Arbor, Michigan (Frost: Centennial Essays, 1974).

While the moon interpretation is not impossible, it makes little sense to think of the moon as a clock. The moon does not reveal time in terms of hours, for example, as the sun does.

Couplet: "Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right"

The speaker then asserts that the clock "proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right." The speaker has demonstrated some consternation about his night walks through the city.

This speaker's timid reaction to the watchman reveals that he felt he probably should not be out so late at night, but then upon seeing the clock, he reinterprets time, realizing that time is neutral, and only the human associates appropriateness with time.

The speaker then repeats his claim, "I have been one acquainted with the night"—this time he is asserting his right to be out walking and observing night life.

The speaker is quite proud to state that he knows night time in the city, if only as an acquaintance, not a friend.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Submit a Comment

No comments yet.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)