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.

                                              -- Robert Frost, 1927

I chose to share this poem with you because it has the ability to speak to everyone in a personal way. Poetry is always something I enjoy to read because it challenges my thinking and allows me to delve into the meaning of the soul. Beautifully written poetry cannot be read and then tossed away; it takes a very advanced analyst to understand poetry after the first reading. The reason I love poetry is because you can read a poem dozens of times and not understand any of it! You will be frustrated and anxious and want to give up, but then all at once you'll notice something that you haven't noticed before, and all of a sudden you'll relate to the words and the patterns and you'll find meaning. You'll just "get it" and it feels good to get it because of all the critical thinking and hard work you put it into it. And it pays off to get it, in a million more ways than, I think, any other medium of storytelling pays off because you develop a new meaning about something in your life, whether it be love or spirit or isolation, like in "Acquainted With the Night."

 "Acquainted With the Night" is a story about the isolation and distance people may sometimes feel about their place in the world. Have you ever felt that you didn't understand life's meaning and you didn't know why you were chosen to live the life you are in right now? That is what Frost is talking about in his poem. When reading the poem, you can feel like you are him walking through the darkness of night with only the moon ("luminary clock") to keep you company. The speaker in the poem is alone and lonely, he hears a cry from the distance but he knows it's not for him and he feels left out and distanced from the world. Everything in the poem is far away, you can feel it, even the night is far away--the speaker is only "acquainted" with the night, he does not actually feel that he is with the night or in the world experiencing night, he is just an acquaintance to the darkness and is essentially empty inside. Have you ever felt lonely even when you were in a crowded room? That is how the speaker feels in his city, and he ventures out into the darkness to try and become one with the natural world in hopes that maybe he won't feel so alone anymore and he'll finally find his purpose. But all he comes across is a lonely moon in a lonely sky and, in the end, he is still only "Acquainted With the Night."

Edit 1/22/15: Poetry is an interesting medium where sometimes you can read a poem months later and find something new that you haven't seen before. As I'm re-reading my previous posts, I thought it would be interesting to re-read this poem by Robert Frost, "Acquainted With the Night." I am seeing now a deeper meaning of the word, "night" -- that it is a symbol for the darkness in the world. The speaker in the poem recalls the moments when he has known hardship, when he has felt guilt, when he has felt broken down and saw pain that he couldn't handle or help. Just like the moon, everything is out of his control and he really knows that and is trying to accept that. 

The speaker is a soldier, maybe literally but maybe just to life, he has grown and led a life where he has seen a lot of trouble. The soldier in the poem is acknowledging, "One luminary clock against the sky / Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right," that nothing may ever be right in the world -- but that's not going to ever be in his control. For about half of the poem, in the beginning, the speaker is strong and all-knowing, I have done this and this and this, I am not proud of some but I have walked through life and seen a lot. Then at the end of the poem, the speaker slowly starts to confess, "And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain" and even "When far away an interrupted cry" as if he feels the pain but knows he can't help. He is only acquainted, life is naturally uncontrollable like the moon.

Researching some of my previous conclusions with this poem, I found that a lot of other analysts came to the same conclusions as my first analysis. However, I want to emphasize that poetry doesn't always have to lead to one lane - you can interpret anything based on several different factors. You may recognize different symbols to have different meanings at different points in your life. That's the beauty of it. People are sometimes afraid of poetry because of all the frilly words and weird sentence structures but it doesn't have to be scary if you just challenge your mind a little bit. Relate it back to experiences and moments in your own life, do some research on the poet's life, do some research on the time period of the poem, the Internet has all the resources we need and we are lucky for that.