Acquainted with the Night

by Robert Frost

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What does "acquainted with the night" mean in Frost's poem?

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On a literal level, it seems that the speaker of the poem is familiar with the nighttime. He has taken a great many walks at night, which we learn from his statement that he has "outwalked the furthest city light." He has also passed the night "watchman on his beat" and felt somewhat ashamed, perhaps, not wanting to "explain" why he is out alone so late. He refers to the moon with a metaphor, calling it a "luminary clock" up in the sky, and, obviously, we associate the moon with nighttime.

However, on a figurative level, the night seems to symbolize being alone, experiencing isolation, perhaps even being an outcast or misunderstood by society. The speaker says that he has been "one acquainted with the night," the repetition of the word one emphasizing his solitude and loneliness; he has no company. He has walked to the edges of the city, looked at the "saddest" lanes, shied away from speaking to anyone, and, even when he does hear a "cry" come from another street, he knows the cry is "not to call [him] back or say good-bye." It is as though the only company he has known is the moon, and even it is far away at an "unearthly height."

For him, the "time [is] neither wrong nor right," maybe, to bridge the gap between himself and others. His unwillingness to explain or make eye contact with the watchman makes it seem as though he is ashamed, embarrassed, or anxious. The night could, therefore, figuratively refer to his isolation, be it self-imposed or otherwise.

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