Walking alone at night, for some, can seem like a peaceful thing to do, to help clear a person’s mind and let the day’s troubles disappear into the dark. For others, though, the night is when a person feels the most alone and must face their own demons. Robert Frost makes the night become that dark, grim and depressing time in which people reflect on themselves in his poem “Acquainted with the Night”.
The first time reading the poem, one just simply thinks a person is taking a walk at night in the city, keeping to themself when meeting the watchman and listening to the sounds on the streets around, all the while keeping time by the moon in the sky as to when to head back home.
But, when taking a closer look, the reader can begin to see the pain, grief and the foreboding feeling the speaker has about life itself, the feeling of being alone and wanting it to stay that way.
It also shows that the speaker isn’t the only person with pain and grief on this night.
The theme of Robert Frost’s poem “Acquainted with the Night” is depression and grief in the speakers’ personal life. Frost tells us this by using symbolism and tone in the lines of the poem. “I have walked out in rain – and back in rain. ” The second line in the poem tells the reader that whatever troubles the speaker is having or has had is so much for this person, that when they walk in the night, it doesn’t matter what the weather is, they will walk and walk all night through the rain, trying to out walk their troubles.
The rain can also symbolize life itself, always pouring one thing after another on a person, one stress after another, one heartache after another, and sometimes no matter how strong a person is, they can never get away from that rain. The following line, “I have outwalked the furthest city light. ” tells the reader, in the literal sense, that the speaker also does not care about the distance as to which they will walk to try to leave their troubles behind. Or it can symbolize that no matter how far a person goes in life, there is always trouble waiting. I have looked down the saddest city lane. ” shows the reader that the speaker, though physically alone, isn’t all that alone in the grimness of life.
The lane the speaker is looking down gives the reader the picture that it is run down, abandoned almost and even probably poverty stricken. The reader sees that the speaker isn’t the only one with trouble and depression, it surrounds the speaker but the he sees himself as alone in that he is wrapped up in his own feelings and thoughts. Even when the speaker passes the watchman on the treet, he doesn’t want to explain why he is out at night and averts his eyes so that maybe he will get by without being stopped. The speaker wants to keep the solitude he has in his mind intact so he wants to avoid even speaking to the watchman. The lines 7 through 10 go more in depth of the speakers’ feelings of solitude and isolation while he is out in the night: “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;”
The 7th line shows that the speaker really is all alone out there when walking; there are no other sounds of people walking or going about on the street he is walking down. The speaker walking alone reflects how he feels in his everyday life, alone, no one to walk with him and take on the troubles of life. But, he isn’t too far away from others because he can hear a cry from another lost soul dealing with their own turmoil. The lines 8 to 9 make the entire poem come across as almost horrific, because the reader then wonders what kind of cry is it that the speaker is hearing?
Is the sound of some crime? Or just another person in and dealing with their own hell? Then the final lines of the poem bring home the morbid tone of the entire piece. Line 11, “And further still at an unearthly height” symbolizes how the speaker feels about how out of reach and out of touch he is with his surroundings and possibly with life itself. The lines 12 and 13, “One luminary clock against the sky / Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right. ” makes the reader feel the dark tone of the poem even more.
The reader, at this point, is brought closer to understanding the speaker’s feeling of loneliness and solitude because that is how most people feel, no matter when it is, it is never the right time or the wrong time for almost anything. It feels as if one can almost never make the right call as to when to do something in their life that is important. The line 13 makes the reader wonder if the speaker is considering suicide, that the speaker is wondering if the time is ever right for committing suicide, or is it ever right for living life.
The repeated line “I have been one acquainted with he night” as the first and last lines of the poem is the final piece that really sets the tone of darkness for the poem as a whole. Night is usually acquainted with darkness, scary things, loneliness, solitude, unhappiness and even depression. So the simple line brings to light the deepness of the inability of the speaker not being able to find things in common with those around him, not being able to open up and discuss himself and his feelings and thoughts. He has known trouble and pain, and doesn’t know how to leave it behind, so he carries it with him so that even during the day, he feels as if he is always in the darkness of night.
Overall, Frost’s poem “Acquainted with the Night” is a poem that can be taken just literally, or symbolically. It depends on the kind of outlook on life each person that reads the poem has. Some might not see the symbolism of the feelings of darkness, isolation and grief, while others see it right away. But either way, the reader can still feel the dark tone of the poem whether it is the first time reading it, or the hundredth, just from the beginning and ending lines, “I have been one acquainted with the night”.