Acquainted with the Night

by Robert Frost

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

In this dark piece, the narrator begins by telling us that he is acquainted with the night. He uses the phrase "I have" three times in the first stanza to reinforce his point. The use of anaphora here is significant.

Anaphora, of course, refers to the literary practice of repeating a word or phrase at the beginning of each successive sentence. In the first stanza, the phrase "I have" tells us that the narrator is acquainted with the night, the rain, and the city lights. He tells us that he has walked in the rain, presumably in the night, and that he has outwalked the furthest city lights.

We don't know if his meaning is literal or metaphorical or a little of both. However, his proclamation lends a sense of darkness to the poem.

In the second stanza, he relates that he has looked down the saddest of city lanes. Is this particular lane "sad" in terms of its physical qualities or its tendency to harbor the unpleasant elements of the city? Frost leaves us with more questions than answers here.

Next, the narrator tells us that he often sees the police officers out on their nightly patrols. However, he never meets their eyes and doesn't reveal why he indulges in his habit of walking in the evenings.

It's evident that the narrator is accustomed to seeing the police when he takes his walks. In fact, they may be the only human beings he sees on a nightly basis. Apparently, he's never questioned; the police are seemingly accustomed to seeing the narrator, as well.

In the third stanza, the narrator tells us that he has often paused when he hears an interrupted cry originating from another street. He tells us that this cry is usually from "far away."

In the fourth stanza, the narrator explains that the cry he hears is never for him. His admission reveals how alienated he is from the society around him. The narrator doesn't reveal whether he has family or friends. In fact, the only real presence in his life is the "luminary clock" up in the sky.

He doesn't reveal what this clock is, and we are left to wonder whether he means the moon or the stars. Whatever his meaning, this clock seems to follow him wherever he goes. Curiously, however, it never proclaims when the time is right or wrong for an event to occur.

The narrator ends the poem by repeating the first line we read: "I have been one acquainted with the night." The same darkness and sense of oppression mingle with his sober proclamation. It seems he walks at night for a reason: neither the night nor the moon judges his actions.

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