Have you ever had to go somewhere by yourself late at night, and gotten a little creeped out and lonely? Or, maybe you’ve had the feeling that nothing is wrong…but nothing is right, either. Or maybe you’ve been so sad that even things that don’t have feelings, like places or objects, seem sad to you. If so, this poem should speak to you.
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 One luminary clock against the sky Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right. I have been one acquainted with the night.
First published in the The Virginia Quarterly Review in 1927, and then in Frost’s book West Running Brook in 1928, “Acquainted with the Night” is written in terza rima. This poetic form originated in Italy, with Dante’s Divine Comedy. It’s much easier to find rhymes in Italian, so this cyclical rhyming form is very difficult in English, but Frost masters it. The three-line stanzas, intertwined with rhyme, trick you into thinking that you’re moving forward in sound while, really, you are stuck. As we read, we’ll find out how this form fits the content of “Acquainted with the Night.”