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Acquainted with the Night -- Robert Frost

Guest poem submitted by Srihari Sukumaran:
(Poem #1564) Acquainted with the Night
 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.
-- Robert Frost
When I saw the list of Robert Frost's poems in Minstrels with yesterday's
poem (Poem # 1552 -- now more than a day old -- ed.) I realised that one of
my favourite Frost poems is not on Minstrels. Hence this contribution.

The first thing I liked about this poem when I read it (as is the case with
most of Frost's poems) is its rhythm and sound. There is a very regular
'beat' about it. The rhyme scheme is 'aba bcb cdc dad aa' (which Google
tells me is the terza rima).

Unusually for a Frost poem, this one is set in a city, which probably makes
it not very surprising that the theme is loneliness and homelessness. A
sense of loneliness permeates the entire poem -- especially the second,
third and fourth verses. Even time seems indifferent to the speaker -- the
"luminary clock against the sky [the moon?] / Proclaimed the time was
neither wrong nor right".

The poem begins and ends with "I have been one acquainted...". At the first
occurrence there is, I think, a feeling of 'energy' or 'endeavour' -
something positive conveyed in the second and third lines. But the end of
the poem the overwhelming feeling one gets is that of loneliness and even
despondency.

Srihari.

Ps. I hope the above makes sense; I haven't written some thing like this in
over 10 years.

43 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Penney Mark said...

For form geeks: This poem is in terza rima. But also a sonnet of sorts
(count to fourteen; note the couplet at the end).

The most notable terza rima out there, of course, is Dante's _Divine
Comedy_. This is rather a different sort of wandering through hell,
though, eh?

Mark

Rick Dechance said...

The Italian-American poet John Ciardi, who translated the Divine Comedy into
English, used this poem by Frost as an example of terza rima in English,
with great admiration for Frost's achievement. Dante could use terma rima,
with moderate difficulty, in Italian, which is a declined language that's
rich in rhymes. In English, which is very rhyme-poor in comparison, the
repeated rhymes required by terza rima are very difficult to pull off, let
alone make truly poetic.

Mallika Chellappa said...

What a stark poem! It reeks of Man's inhumanity to Man
1. Have been? Why not any more? Did there come a time when Frost never walked out at Night?
2. Unwilling to explain: The accursed right to property, coupled with the propensity of some to let others do all the work and steal the results, creates soul-destroying jobs like "watchman"
3. Interrupted cry - one can imagine many scenarios that would result in this, very few of them optimistic.

Mallika

Mallika Chellappa said...

What a stark poem! It ssems to me to reek of Man's inhumanity to Man
1. Have been? Why not any more? Did there come a time when Frost never walked out at Night?
2. Unwilling to explain: The accursed right to property, coupled with the propensity of some to let others do all the work and steal the results, creates soul-destroying jobs like "watchman"
3. Interrupted cry - one can imagine many scenarios that would result in this, very few of them optimistic.
Mallika

Harsh Dhand said...

Srihari jhoot bol raha hai

Regards,
Harsh Dhand

larmoe said...

The correct line is "One luminary clock against the sky"

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