Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

In “Acquainted with the Night” Frost embraces the night as an entity with which he is familiar. The phrase “acquainted with the night” itself is an unusual one in that an acquaintance is usually not considered a close friend but someone or something that is known only superficially. However, in this poem, the tone is one of quiet acceptance of the night as, if not an intimate friend, at least a familiar aspect of his life, and thus it appears that the night symbolizes more than just isolation or loneliness. It represents the poet’s inner self as well, a self with which he is acquainted but does not know well. The poet’s journey into the night, then, can be seen as ongoing and continual, progressing to a more complete self-knowledge.

If the poet does not know himself, then his acquaintance with society, as symbolized by the city light, is even more tenuous. He listens to the sounds of the city but is not a part of it; he sees the city watchman but avoids any contact with him.

Frost’s poetry often contains darkness, whether it be dark woods or the dark night. For Frost, the darkness evokes a sense of quiet and calm. Embracing the solitude and isolation of night and its accompanying darkness, the poet illustrates that for him the world is a dichotomy. There is the dark and quiet world beyond the “furthest city light,” and there is the city itself, with its watchman, its clock, and its responsibilities. The poet, seeking...

(The entire section is 438 words.)