Essay: "Acquainted With the Night" by Robert Frost
Sometimes a poem can have an immediate hold on us although we're not sure why. Though it sounds contradictory, a powerful vagueness, like a heavy mist, engulfs us when we read or hear the words. This is the feeling I had the first time I read Robert Frost's "Acquainted With the Night." In fact, I was so captured by the poem that I memorized it. However, I never took the time to formally analyzed it to understand what makes it so powerful. So, I've decided to thoroughly immerse myself in it so I can learn why I'm drawn so strongly to it, as are many other people. "Acquainted With the Night" is one of Frost's most loved poems.
A good starting place when analyzing a poem is to search for literal meanings. The literal subject matter of this poem seems obvious and clear, at least on the surface. The following are some of the literal meanings that, for simplicity's sake, I've listed in the order they appear line-by-line. I use a masculine pronoun when referring to the speaker because it feels to me that the speaker is a man.
* The speaker takes long walks alone late at night.
* His walks have also been in the rain.
* He has walked to and beyond the edges of town, beyond the city lights.
* He has seen the sad parts of town; perhaps the poor, ghetto areas.
* He has passed a watchman, or a foot patrolman, during his walks.
* He has averted his eyes when passing the watchman, not wanting to explain something to him.
* He has stopped to listen when he's heard, in the distance, someone cry out.
* He can see an illuminated clock face high on a tower somewhere in the distance.
So, the poem literally is of a man talking about his walks late at night. As Laurence Perrine says, "This poem is not the account of one walk; it is the record of many walks" (50), or the composite of many walks at night. The tone and the lack of details tell us that there is a deeper meaning. If the...