“White Night” is a short poem of twelve lines in three four-line stanzas. The title, an oxymoron, seems to bear little upon the drama of the narrative, but can be explained symbolically in terms of “white,” often associated in Anna Akhmatova’s writing with winter snow, which brings with it a meaning of loss of memory or death, and “night,” a reference point to both time, another of Akhmatova’s recurrent themes, and the oncoming fall of night for the speaker. “White Night,” then, would be a time of loss, of a remembrance of a reality fading into the darkness imposed by time’s unstoppable march.
The poem, which begins with “I,” does not simply share a personal experience with the reader. “You” is introduced in the third line of the first stanza, along with the speaker’s speculations about how the person the “you” represents feels. The continuing presence of both “I” and “you” affects the poem’s interaction with the reader, making it appear that the reader is eavesdropping on an intimate dialogue between an abandoned lover and the one who has done the abandoning.
The collection of poems in which “White Night” first appeared is recognized as novel-like in its structure—a series of scenes that together tell a story—and is also considered to be indirectly connected with biographical episodes in Akhmatova’s life; thus the spurned lover is identified both as a woman, in keeping with the other...
(The entire section is 577 words.)