Acquainted with the Night
by: Robert Frost

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,
O luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Way 1: First Impressions

Upon initially reading Frost's "Acquainted with the Night", I get the feeling of loneliness and darkness. The feeling of being alone on a dark city street is felt and the poem invokes a sense of fear and gloom. The poem continually expresses the feeling of darkness and Frost writes that he has been in many dark circumstances that no one likes to experience. Frost also begins every new sentence with "I", which emphasizes the feeling of loneliness and isolation that he has gone through. The poem is 14 lines long, which means that it is in the form of a sonnet. The poem follows a rhyme scheme throughout the first half, then breaks the scheme, only to finish with two rhyming lines.

In the first stanza Frost says, "I have been one acquainted with the night." This opening line sets a mood of isolation and loneliness and he uses the next three lines of the stanza to articulate what he means by being alone. I feel the second and third lines can be taken either in a negative way or positive way. In a negative light, the "rain" can be paired with a feeling of gloom and "outwalked the furthest city light" can be paired with a feeling of complete isolation. From a positive aspect, the "rain" could be seen as a fresh, new beginning for Frost as he goes through life. The "furthest city light" can be interpreted as overcoming all of the criticisms from others around him and doing the unthinkable. The second stanza also gives off a vibe of failure as "watchman" can be interpreted as others who look down on him or maybe a figure of God. "Dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain" tells me that Frost has no explanation for the way he has lived or things he has done.

The poem concludes with the last stanza and couplet also having a feeling of sadness. The cry that Frost hears and stops to listen to is not to "call me back or say good-bye", which leads me to believe that he has lost contact with someone or broken ties, and that he was hoping for them to take him back in. "O luminary clock against the sky" is a great way in which Frost describes the moon that has so much to do with the entire poem. The moon is a signal of the dark of night that the author finds himself wandering around in, as he waits for time to pass by the moon's rotation. The moon could also signal that this darkness Frost has found himself in is not permanent, simply a phase that he must go through. The poem opens and closes with the same line which gives strong emphasis to Frost being "acquainted with the night." This could be interpreted as Frost being in this lonely state more than once, or simply experiencing it for the first time as he waits for the moon and darkness to pass him by. Either way, the repetition proposes a feeling of mystery and adds a lot of meaning to the lines in the poem.

Way 2: Engaging with the Text

Here is a clip of Robert Frost reading his poem, "Acquainted with the Night"
http://poetstrade.groups.vox.com/library/audio/6a00c2252a3d018e1d00fa96a209150002.html . After hearing the poem read aloud, I was reminded again how sad it is. When reading it over in my head, I could feel the negativity from the piece, but when read aloud, one can really pick up on the emotion Frost put into the poem. After listening to the poem I was also able to re-think parts of the poem and picked up on two uses of metaphors. Frost describes "an interrupted cry" off in the distance but is unable to make it out. The usage of distance and distortion can be seen as metaphors that relate to Frost's emotional distance or confusion. Secondly, referring to the moon as the "luminary clock against the sky" is metaphorical. Frost goes on to discuss the moon and that it doesn't tell wrong or right, and I get the feeling that the moon is actually a positive thing in the poem because it's not judging his actions and comes and goes each night. This coming and going may relate to the emotions that Frost is dealing with, a certain sense of isolation or depression that haunt him because he has lost something. I was also able to hear the rhyming that Frost used in the poem, such as night/light, rain/lane, beat/feet, and right/night. It's interesting that he uses rhyme throughout the poem, because I couldn't get a steady feeling of rhythm when I recited it. It seemed like it was about to flow, but then Frost would break his rhyme scheme. In conclusion, I feel that hearing this poem aloud furthered my understanding of the deep sorrow that Frost put into it while writing "Acquainted with the Night."

Way 3: A Point about Form and Its Relationship to Content

"Acquainted with the Night" by Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in the rain -- and back in the 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,
O
luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.

I have been one acquainted with the night .

Way 3: Another Point about Form and Its Relationship to Content

The fact that "Acquainted with the Night" is 14 lines long classifies it as a sonnet, but the rhyme scheme of a sonnet is not present throughout the whole poem. Frost utilizes the rhyme pattern of a sonnet throughout different parts of the poem but then breaks it at certain moments. I feel that Frost did this to break away from the norm; to make it different. This difference can be linked to the poem itself, being different from others and having a sense of isolation. Frost expresses the true emotions of his heart throughout the poem as he mentions his loneliness and instances of non-conformity from others. He has felt the deepest feelings of isolation and darkness and cannot look others in the eye to explain himself, which I feel Frost incorporates into the form of the poem. I believe the reason he breaks the rhyme scheme of a sonnet in certain parts is to make the poem itself stand out, and to make the lines that don't fit the pattern stand out in the poem. In doing so, he puts more emphasis on these parts and portrays the important parts of the poem in a greater fashion.

Way 4: Unpacking an Instance of Figurative Language

"Acquainted with the Night" by Robert Frost


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,
O luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.


Way 5: Analyzing the Setting

The setting in Frost's "Acquainted with the Night" is set somewhere in a smaller city and Frost is telling his story while it is night time. I was able to tell that Frost is outside during the poem because of the following line, "O luminary clock against the sky" (Frost), which would signify that Frost is telling his story while looking up at the moon. I find it quite interesting that he is staring up at the moon because the preceding parts of the poem seem to be in past tense, so it seems as if Frost is reminiscing while proclaiming his feelings to the "luminary clock." I believe that the poem is set in a small city because of several lines throughout the poem, such as "When far away an interrupted cry/ Came over houses from another street" (Frost), which leads me to believe that he is a city that isn't very loud, which is common in smaller cities. Another line that contributes to the setting taking place in a smaller city is the line, "I have outwalked the furthest city light" (Frost), which is more feasible in a smaller city due to the fact that Frost was able to escape the lights of the city.

Way 6: Identifying and Analyzing Point of View

Frost's "Acquainted with the Night" is in first-person POV. This can be determined from the textual evidence that Frost used throughout the poem such as the words "I", "my", and "me". Frost uses first-person POV rather than third-person because it enhances the emotions and tone of the poem in a large way. By Frost using first-person in "Acquainted with the Night", Frost is able to portray his deepest emotions and the reader can really sense the agony and depression that the author has felt. Since Frost used the first-person POV, you were able to learn his true emotions as they pour out of his mind, rather than just being told of them like a third-person POV would do. Also, there aren't any limitations to the emotions throughout the poem because Frost is expressing his sorrows openly as he reflects upon life and looks up at the "luminary clock" (Frost). If the POV of "Acquainted with the Night" was changed to a different POV other than first-person, I feel that a lot of the emotion felt when reading would be lost and the reader wouldn't truly feel the sorrows Frost is expressing throughout the poem. All in all, I believe that the first-person POV is the best for this specific poem because it allows the reader to get the most expression and emotion from the text.



Way 7: Analyzing Complexity, Ambiguity, & Difficulty

"Acquainted with the Night" by Robert Frost is a poem that is loaded with ambiguity throughout the text, as well as in the title. "Acquainted with the Night" can be seen as ambiguious because the reader could interpret the title as meaning two things. The first being that the reader could assume that Frost tends to go out during the night and therefore has found himself to be one who is familiar with the night. The second meaning could be one that is much deeper and conveys many emotions. This meaning is better realized after one has analyzed the text throughoughly and starts to unpack it. The reader will then realize the meaning of "acquainted with the night" to be about Frost's life and the emotional state that he has found himself in.

The term "watchman" in the following line, "I have passed by the watchman on his beat" (Frost) is another word in the poem that has multiple meanings. One may look at watchman and refer to it as some sort of patrol person, possibly guarding the city streets that Frost finds himself wandering. Another interpretation could be that the watchman is someone that Frost has high respect for, such as an authority figure or God. This is supported in the line, "And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain" (Frost), which implies that Frost is disgraced with some action that he has taken and doesn't feel he is worthy to look into the eyes of the higher authority figure or God and even begin to explain himself.

The first line in stanza three is one that poses ambiguity in my mind whenever I analyze the poem. "I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet" (Frost) is a line that I have contemplated the true meaning of several times. The first meaning I have thought of implies that Frost is some sort of outcast or a figure of disgust. My reasoning is such that when Frost is seen in public or out on the street at night, people tend to stop what they're doing when he stops, as if they wonder what is going through his mind or what he is planning. This would make sense because it seems as if Frost is regularly walking the streets at night, which is sort of an odd time to be out on a walk. The second meaning I came up with is that Frost has found himself stopping and blocking everything out around him. When Frost stops, he is able to freeze time in his mind and analyze everything that is going on around him. This is supported by "stopped the sound of feet" (Frost), because the author is saying that he is able to block out the noise and clutter around him and truly recognize what is going on around him.

The lines in stanza three and four also seemed ambiguous to me as I read through the poem. "When far away an interrupted cry/ Came over houses from another street/ But not to call me back or say good-bye" (Frost), raised two different meanings in my mind as to what the "cry" that Frost hears actually means. The first meaning of the "cry" could be one that is yelling at him. Frost may have done something wrong, either with family or friends, that has caused him to leave his home and end up a few streets away. This "cry" would not be asking him to come home or say good-bye, but rather be one of anger and disgust in the actions that Frost has taken. The second meaning that I felt after analyzing the previous lines is that the "cry" is due to Frost's leaving. This may be a feeling of sadness that Frost has left to wander about in the night, but it is not calling him back or saying good-bye because of his usual tendency to roam the city streets at night. Either of the meanings create more possibilities as to what Frost's poem is actually about, and show the true beauty of ambiguity and how authors use it to enrich their text and let the reader's mind explore many different possibilities.

Way 8: Considering Canonicity

Robert Frost's "Acquainted with the Night" is a literary work that involves canoncity in multiple ways. Canoncity commonly refers to the aesthetic value, or artistic beauty, that a piece of literature applies, a specific meaning to the time and circumstance that the piece was written, and a common effect that the text has on human emotion and experience. "Acquainted with the Night" is bountiful in aesthetic value due to the large usage of figurative language and other literary tools that are used to enhance the meaning of the text. Specific examples of figurative language from Frost's poem can be seen in the usage of the word rain, city light, watchman, and luminary clock. These words all convey meanings to the reader that are much deeper than just their simple definition, as they cut deep into the reader's mind to provoke certain emotions and thoughts. The poem also has endured a fairly long stretch of time, being written in 1928, which would signify that the poem has a sense of longevity. Longevity is key to a piece of literature being classified as a canon, and since "Acquainted with the Night" deals with a feeling of depression and loneliness, the longevity will never fade as generations progress. Canoncity also has the ability to capture the trends of a culture and what they have endured, which Frost's poem does well considering that it was written during the economic downturn that led up to the Great Depression. The poem captures the general feelings of depression, loneliness, and darkness which all apply to human experience of that time. Since Frost captured these feelings of uncertainty, they definitely assisted his poem in retaining it's canoncity because of the current state of mankind and what is most likely to come. "Acquainted with the Night" by Frost is a literary piece that has the qualities of being a canon due in part to Frost's ability to capture emotions and culture around him, and also Frost's ability to use language that is artistically beautiful so that generations of readers can enjoy and connect with his work.

Way 9: Biographical Context

Robert Frost is one of the greatest and most widely recognized poets of the 20th century, but his success did not come easy. Throughout life, Frost struggled to have his works published in his native home of America, so he moved to England when money became an issue. While in England, Frost had several works published and met many other writers like himself. Frost spent a great amount of time in the hillsides and in nature, which can be seen as an attribute in his writing. Frost then returned to New York, which is when his literary career really took off. Much of Frost's work was done during the crossover from Victorian writing to contemporary writing, but Frost always had his own specific style. "The poet-speaker is reacting to the world around him in a variety of moods-from despair to hope, from withdrawls to acceptance (Hart), is the most common way that Frost went about writing. The author enjoyed writing about everyday experiences, which we can see in "Acquainted with the Night." In the poem, Frost is in utter despair and in a miserable state of loneliness and depression, which is an occurrence that most people can relate to. Frost enjoyed writing his poems so that everyone could relate to him, as he "draws ideas about the human condition from his observations of the natural world" (Hart). Frost's work thrived off writing about human experiences and captured the emotions and depth of human life. As another source put it, Frost had a way of writing in which, "It begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lonliness" (Gale), which is another way of understanding how Frost went about his writing. The author would write about something that everyone can/has experienced, and then would continue by conveying the deep emotional aspect of it. "Acquainted with the Night" is a perfect example of how Frost's biographical history links to his writing, as he has found himself in a state of depression, but then goes on to convey his emotions by using great detail and subtextual meanings that the reader can explore and connect within their own lives.


Hart, Linda. "The English Years of Robert Frost." Contemporary Review 290 (2008). WilsonWeb. Web. 23 Apr. 2010. <http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com>
"Robert Frost, Biography."
Gale Database. Contemporary Authors Online, 2009. Web. 23 Apr. 2010. <http://galenet.galegroup.com>



Way 10: Developing Historical and Cultural Contexts

When Robert Frost wrote “Acquainted with the Night” in 1928, the literary world was going through a transformation, and Frost found himself not going along with the change. As Richard Poirer stated in his book, “Frost offers a literary criticism that is directed toward his contemporary poets, who, in modernizing poetry, strayed away from the closed-form poetry. Written at the peak of the American modernist movement in 1928, ‘Acquainted with the Night’ emphasizes the importance of pushing limits and exploring the unknown, while remaining within the boundaries of accepted tradition” (Amano). The switch from contemporary poetry to modern poetry is a significant change in the culture of literature during Frost’s time. It is quite apparent throughout “Acquainted with the Night” that Frost intended to significantly show that he is still writing literature in the contemporary form, as he continued to explore new ideas and present a feeling of mystery and uncertainty. Throughout the poem Frost implies mystery and allows the reader’s mind to explore, as he never entails what he has done that has put him in his current state of emotion and allows the reader to interpret his actions in their own way. Frost also incorporates the feeling of uncertainty and judgment in his poem as he symbolizes these feelings with the clock in his poem. “The clock confidently proclaimed the time of night but, despite its confidence about fact and despite its ‘unearthly height’ and supernatural appearance was incapable of making a moral judgment on the time. The ironic contrast suggests something about the scientific certitudes and moral uncertainties of our time” (Fleissner). This usage of the clock symbolizes that when Frost originally wrote the poem in 1928, there may have been a significant amount of moral uncertainty as to what is right and wrong. This could be attributed to the recent end of World War I, the slow-down turn of the American economy, or simply the transition from contemporary literature to modern writing. With that said, Frost’s “Acquainted with the Night” can be culturally and historically referenced to feelings of uncertainty and change, which closely relates to the emotions that Frost conveys throughout the poem.



Amano, Kyoko. "Frost's "Acquainted with the Night"" The Explicator 65.1 (2006): 39-42. WilsonWeb. Web. 28 Apr. 2010. <http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.ezproxy.uwc.edu/hww/results/getResults.jhtml?_DARGS=/hww/results/results_common.jhtml.33>.

Fleissner, Robert F. "Frost's ACQUAINTED WITH THE NIGHT."
The Explicator 37.1 (1978): 13. EBSCO. Web. 28 Apr. 2010. <http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.uwc.edu/ehost>.

Way 11: Theoretical Perspectives

After examining the ideas behind psychoanalytic criticism and searching for applications of it throughout Frost's "Acquainted with the Night", there are many new ways to interpret the text and multiple questions arise. Psychoanalytic criticism is "the relationship between conscious and unconscious thought processes" (Brown, Yarbrough) which can be applied to literature in many different ways. The criticism will ask what is being held in, or repressed, in the mind of the author and why do they choose to include this in their literature? Sigmund Freud would argue that when authors write literature, they are actually releasing their repressed thoughts, dreams, or fantasies, which one would usually keep to them self. In turn, Freud would use these thoughts as a way to understand and view the unconscious mind. "When far away an interrupted cry came over houses from another street" (Frost), is a possible line that psychoanalytic critics may approach with many questions. They would wonder why is this voice calling him back? What is the cause of this repression? What was the wrong-doing he has done or what is his wish? This line opens the door for many questions from psychoanalytics because it is something that Frost wants to hear, he wants to hear the voice calling him to come back home. Another example is "I have outwalked the furthest city light" (Frost), as psychoanalytic critics would contemplate what Frost is indeed seeking. There is obviously some sort of wish or fantasy that he wants to experience by proceeding far out into the dark, and it can be supported by the unconscious mind being let loose and having the ability to explore the unknown. I believe that Frost's "Acquainted with the Night" is a poem that could be deeply examined by psychoanalytic criticism due to the infinite sense of mystery and uncertainty that the unconscious mind is seeking to explore.



Brown, James S., and Scott D. Yarbrough. A Practical Introduction to Literary Study. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2005. Print.

Murray, Keat. "Robert Frost's Portrait of a Modern Mind: The Archetypal Resonance of "Acquainted with the Night"" Midwest Quarterly 41.4 (2000): 370. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 May 2010. <http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.uwc.edu>.

Way 12: Theoretical Perspectives

Another way to enrich the text of Robert Frost's "Acquainted with the Night" is to examine it through deconstructionism. Deconstruction is difficult to put a concrete meaning to, but "the belief that no text can be completely nailed down to one proper reading, interpretation, or explanation" (Brown, Yarbrough) is a good way to approach it. This concept almost seems to share certain guidelines with ambiguity, as deconstructionism has no fully correct way of interpreting an author's intention, and there is no exact way to interpret a piece of literature if it can be read in another different way. The approach also looks for missing pieces throughout a text and looks to focus on meanings that are more interesting and were not intended by the author. "Acquainted with the Night" has many examples of this approach, with the furthest city light, the watchman, and the luminary clock being the most intriguing to me. Deconstructionists would contemplate what the furthest city light actually is or stands for, is it literally the furthest light, or is Frost taking himself on a journey past the edge of his current experiences? Many would argue that the watchman may be some God-like figure, but deconstructionists would look for a meaning that Frost didn't intend, maybe the watchman was actually a patrolman or simply a common city-dweller, who Frost doesn't believe he can look eye-to-eye. The luminary clock can almost surely be agreed upon to be the moon itself, but it's meaning can go in many different directions. One option may be that the moon is up at night, where Frost often finds himself and uses it to judge how much longer he will be in the dark. Another possibility could be that the moon is a signal to Frost as to what the author must do, he must continue to venture out into the darkness to find what he desires before he runs out of time. Deconstruction criticism would ask many questions about the symbols and meanings throughout Frost's "Acquainted with the Night", and would desire to find meanings that Frost had never thought of, which can truly enrich the literature and take it to a whole new level.


Brown, James S., and Scott D. Yarbrough. A Practical Introduction to Literary Study. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2005. Print.

Way 13: Overall Review

After studying Robert Frost's "Acquainted with the Night" and going through it while applying the 13 Ways, I have come to learn a lot about the poem and how I approach literature. When I initially read the poem and completed way 1, I thought that it was purely about depression and was basically a sob story, but it was simply because I didn't recognize all the literary tools being used throughout the poem. After hearing Frost read the poem aloud in way 2, I started to gain some understanding about the poem, specifically picking up on some of the rhyme schemes and noticing some of the metaphors being used in key places. Ways 3 and 4 are when I started to finally understand what was going on in the poem and why Frost was so sad, as I went deeper into the poem and realized the enormous usage and dependency on the metaphors and figurative language scattered in the poem. Ways 5 and 6 were two of the most interesting parts of the project to me, as I had never really experienced how large of an impact setting and POV can have on a piece of literature. By gaining knowledge about setting and how it can change the overall atmosphere of a literary work, I saw it deepen my understanding of the poem and really bring the poem to life because I connected with the situations Frost was in. POV was also monumental to my understanding of "Acquainted with the Night" because I learned how each different POV can have an large role on the overall vibe of a piece, which the first-person POV in Frost's poem really took advantage of. Since the poem was in first-person, I was really able to feel the emotions Frost was writing with/about, and see the poem on a much deeper level of emotion. Way 7, which dealt with ambiguity, was the largest and most important way to my interpretation. Frost is known for incorporating a great deal of uncertainty into his work, and ambiguity really assisted my understanding of this specific piece. After having the previous ways educate me on how to look for specific things in a poem, I was able to come up with a vast amount of meanings that the poem could have, instead of solely focusing on depression and isolation. In having the ability to find more meanings of this poem than just depression, the poem seemed to have more meaning to me because I was able to interpret it in a number of different ways.
Ways 8, 9 and 10 all contributed to helping me connect the poem to the time they were written and to get some understanding of why it was written the way Frost decided to. By understanding some of the background from the era it was written, and how Frost was resistant to the modern movement and continued to write with uncertainty helped to gain an understanding of why the poem was left so open-ended. The last two ways, 11 and 12, helped to gain a new understanding of the poem and how it could be questioned in many ways that I had not thought of. By gaining an understanding for two theoretical approaches I was able to really connect with them and see how they would question Frost's writing to answer different questions that were presented in the text.
Throughout the course of the 13 ways project I have expanded my knowledge in approaching this piece of literature, but on a larger scale, I have learned many concepts that I find myself applying to any literature I come across. When initially reading "Acquainted with the Night", I really didn't see any meanings or importance to anything other than the depressing feeling I got from the text. Now, after learning these skills I was able to connect with the literature and understand it based off of the ambiguity it presents, the time period it was written in, and the figurative tools that led to myself questioning many previous assumptions I have had about it. All in all, the 13 ways capstone project has really opened my eyes to how I interpret literature, and has led to an enormous expansion in how I analyze pieces of a literary work, both in horizontal and vertical thinking.

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