Robert Frost “Acquainted with the Night”

Robert Frost, one of the most prominent and famous poets in the history of the American Literature, was born in San Francisco in 1874. In his young years he used to attend Dartmouth College and Harvard College. Later he married Eleanor White. His first poems were difficult to publish in the USA, therefore Robert moved to England where his literary career began. After his return to the States, he became a well-known poet, and even was rewarded with four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry. In 1963 he died in Boston. His poetry focuses on ordinary subjects, but applies symbolism and profound emotion. Frost wrote from joyful, comical poems to gloomy, tragic ones. His exceptional style and implausible use of symbolism give his readers a better understanding of his masterpieces.

The poem under discussion is called Acquainted with the Night and it was published in 1928 in Frost’s collection New Hampshire. This poem is written in a form of a sonnet; and the rhyme scheme used is Terza Rima, which was characteristic of Dante; and some critics see the connection between this verse and Dante’s Inferno. For example, the expression outwalked the furthest city light can mean that the speaker has gone wrong way, which reminds Dante’s first Canto, telling about going off the right path. The correlation with Dante’s Inferno may mean that speaker is wandering around the emotional hell of his mind.

The poem’s meter is a perfect iambic pentameter (each line has ten beats). Tenza Rima is one of the most complicated rhyme schemes to create: a-b-a, b-c-b, c-d-c, d-a-d-a-a. The repetition of the first rhyme (from a back to a) focuses attention again to the beginning, forming a full circle. Running a full circle, the poem might symbolize the stages of narrator’s depression.

In this poem R. Frost uses various stylistic devices, like irony (in the city where many people live the main character feels lonely), paradox (the time was neither wrong nor right), and alliteration (I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet). The leading symbols of the poem are night (sadness, darkness), rain (bad mood, depression), which contrast with light (hope and goodness,). The image of night is undoubtedly important, as at night things are seen in a different light. Common syntax is used in most lines.

The general image of the poem is the city the speaker is in. The anaphoric repetition of I have presents hero’s monotonous life. The title also starts and ends the poem, which strengthens the cyclicity. The tone of the poem is dull and cheerless. Most theorists of literature believe that the poem describes isolation and solitude.

In order to emphasize hero’s loneness, the author uses the concept of distance, which is expressed by such words, like walked, outwalked, passed, stood still, far away, further. This technique gives the general impression that the hero is really leaving the city to reunite with nature, which plays an important role in Frost’s poetry. The expression outwalked the furthest city lights might mean that he is trying to escape, to find some sense, to abandon city lights, as signs of the civilization, which had enslaved the world the hero admires.

The evidence of hero’s loneliness could be found starting from the first quatrain. Anywhere the narrator walks, he’s accompanied by rain. Taking into consideration, that Frost’s favorite topics are rural landscapes of New England, it becomes obvious that the city landscape is alien to him, because this landscape is not his home and it doesn’t make him happy (I have walked down the saddest city lane). Speaker’s opposition to the watchman confirms his isolation. Passing the watchman, the hero drops his eyes, unwilling to explain. This might connotate, according to some critics, kind of guilt, or it might also mean hero’s desire to stay alone and think over t his sadness.

The speaker’s solitude in the society is explained most explicitly, when he stood still and stopped the sound of feet. Standing still, he could hear other people walking; but he was alone with himself. Another sign of loneliness lies in the image of an interrupted cry, which is neither going to call the character back, nor say good-bye. Thus, the speaker is not acquainted with anyone (but night), he doesn’t belong to anyone on a social level. Although he can hear someone or something far away, the reader realizes that it isn’t addressed to the hero. The luminary clock, connotating the moon, appears to be the only companion of the character, which is seen in the fourth quatrain. According to other experts, the luminary clock could also mean God, associated with Dante’s Inferno and be the direct illusion of Alighieri’s God.

In general, the poem can be interpreted in different ways. One of ideas is that the poem reflects Robert Frost’s mystic absorption into himself. The narrator suggests that in order to find harmony in himself, one should get separated from the society. Thus, our isolation and loneliness are generated by our relations with the social world, but not with the world of nature, which the speaker misses a lot and finds it destroyed by the alienation created by the city life. But at the same time, the social world in this sense seems to be the only protection from isolation and loneliness.

The poem could also be interpreted as Frost’s warning, which concerns the disconnection from God or nature, in other words, people are metaphysically homeless. Some critics tend to believe that the poem touches upon individualism and freedom of thinking, which is frequently covered in Frost’s oeuvre. For no one wanders in the night, except the Romantic poet.

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