Dr. Huw Osborne
10 October 2014
There’s No Escaping Nightmares
To be acquainted with the night one must have experienced some travesty that has lead them from the light of the day, to the dark depression of the night. Robert Frost’s transition was brought forth by the struggles in his personal life. In the early 1900’s after dropping out of university, Frost bought a house in the countryside of Derry, New Hampshire. The family struggled with money constraints and was harshly effected by the death of two of their five children. By this time, Frost contemplated suicide and struggled mightily with depression (Anthology 202). In his poem, Acquainted with the Night Frost uses symbolism, imagery and iambic pentameter to convey that night is characterized by depression and isolation. Frost has accepted that an acquaintance with night is permanent, and that anyone who has ever come in contact with this darkness will forever be connected to it.
Frost uses symbolism to recognize the guilt that has started his slide into depression, and that fall into misery has lead him to become acquainted with the night. Frost eludes to a moment of guilt in his past as he says, “I have passed by the watchmen on his beat; And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain” (Frost 5-6). He uses this excerpt to symbolize his shame and guilt of an event from his past. That event was the fact that he dropped out of Harvard University in 1899. He entered the school believing he could compete with the intellectual powers of his time, but dropping out was a major failure in the progression of his career, and was the initial catalyst in his turn to depression. Proceeding this, his familial life was very tough. This is best exemplified as Frost says, “I have looked down the saddest city lane” (4). This line symbolizes the tragic events of Frost’s fatherhood. In 1900 and 1907 his infant children Elinor and Elliot passed away. Following this, Frost contemplated suicide on a number of occasions and was officially acquainted with the night. Furthermore, Frost explains his isolation as he says, “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-by;” (7-10). In this quotation Frost is able to physically distance himself from the sounds and commotion of the rest of the world. He’s expressing that he feels completely disconnected from society, as if he were a ghost roaming the streets: as if there is not a single person in life left to connect with, he is invisible to society. Even further, the author attaches a permanency to his depression, by saying, “And further still at an unearthly height; One luminary clock against the sky” (Frost 11-12). The unearthly clock in the sky is portrayed as a symbol of a man-made timer that is never going to stop and is impossible to escape from. The clock serves as a reminder that one will always be acquainted with the night, there is no hiding from your own thoughts, they are with you at all times. In these examples it is evident that Frost has associated the night with Depression and Isolation. He has turned nighttime and darkness into a symbol of his own depression, and emphasized that this darkness will forever consume one’s mind.
Additionally, through the use of iambic pentameter, Frost is able to present a hidden dialogue between the form and poem that represents the depression and isolation that he has experienced in his life. The iambic rhythm used is unstressed, stressed until a break in the rhythm at the line: “And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.” (Frost 6). The initial rhythm in the poem resembles the sound of a ticking of a clock. This idea of a cycle similar to the motions of a clock is present throughout the poem. For instance, Frost starts and ends the text with the same lines: “I have been one acquainted with the night” (1,14). He does so to highlight a cycle of depression