CT Journal: Write an interpretive essay in which you examine the implications of one of the poems we have read by Robert Frost.

Erin C.

With regard to the literal translation of "Acquainted with the Night," it appears as if the narrator is recounting a night-time excursion in the rain somewhere farther than the "farthest city light." The return was also made in the rain, and as the person was walking, he passed a night watchman making his rounds, but avoided his glance because he didn't want to explain anything to the watchman. At one point the narrator stopped walking to terminate the sound of their footsteps, and heard a noise in the distance. However, the noise was not a cry to "call [him] back or say good-by." Also, the narrator observed a glowing clock very high up in the sky, which declared the time was neither correct or incorrect. The narrator described himself as someone who had been "acquainted with the night," which literally means one who has had personal knowledge of the night.

Looking past what is directly asserted in this sonnet, I think "the night" can be substituted with "darkness." I don't just mean darkness as in not lighted, but darkness with a connotation of dourness or unpleasantness. 'The phrase, "saddest city lane" suggests a lonely atmosphere, an empty place where no one except for the narrator is about, and I think the narrator is trying to set a morose tone to the poem. To me, the line about walking out and back in the rain seems to mean more than someone simply going somewhere and returning in the midst of a downpour. I think it has to do with being disappointed again and again; however, despite the bitter disappointment someone experiences, if he is able to look back and describe it to another person, it means he has gotten past the hardship(s).

For example, if I wanted to explain to my friend how difficult a past week was, and even invite them not to be discouraged by a bad week they might be having, I could use the walking in the rain metaphor to emphasize my point: "You know, last week was major hell. I had to take four tests, all of which I failed, and then when I thought it couldn't get any worse I fell down the stairs and sprained my ankle. Life sucks sometimes. It seemed like fate was completely against me. You can seriously say I've walked out in the rain and back in the rain. Whenever you think you're having a bad week just remember, I've been there and done that. But even though I was so stressed over my grades, and bitter about my stupid ankle, I still lived to tell about . Don't forget that a bad day is just a bad day, and a bad week is just a bad week. You can get past whatever it is that darkens your doorstep."

I kind of drifted from the idea that "night" and "darkness" might be interchangeable in this particular poem. I think "I have been one acquainted with the night" implies a sense of pride, or self-satisfaction. It's almost as if the narrator is trying to profess that he's experienced unhappiness or unpleasantness before, but is pleased to announce that he has overcome it. The narrator seems to think that darkness is not necessarily "bad." Although his experience was not to be desired, it was a learning experience. It taught him that he is strong enough to handle the challenges life throws at him. "I have outwalked the furthest city light" seems to imply the narrator has reached utter despair, been past all hope. But the fact that he has done so (it's in the past) shows that he prevailed.

I thought that the "luminary clock against the sky," "at an unearthly height" was symbolic of the moon. The moon often represents the night, and is usually only seen in darkness. However, people don't consider the moon to be unfavorable or negative. In fact, the opposite is probably true. Because utter darkness is thought of as disturbing, or scary, people welcome the moon's light. Light is looked upon as "good," "happy," and so forth. The narrator's viewpoint is that darkness is neither bad, nor good; neither wrong nor right. He thinks the fact that the moon only "comes out" in darkness proves that nighttime is not necessarily improper. In other words, if light represents good, and darkness bad, since light and dark accompany each other at night, the time cannot be solely bad or solely good.

I spent a lot of time trying to decipher what the narrator meant by "I have passed by the watchman on his beat and dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain." My question was, explain what? At first I thought he meant he was unwilling to explain to the watchman what he was doing walking around at that hour, since it is unusual behavior, but that still didn't answer why he was unwilling to explain it. I mean, if he wasn't doing anything wrong, then he shouldn't feel reluctant to tell anyone what he's doing. But upon further consideration, I realized there really is no explanation for taking a night time walk. How do you tell someone you just felt like wandering around in the dark? It might have been an impulse of the narrator; he was simply in the mood for it. I know that there have been times when I've been sitting in the middle of math class or something, and for no apparent reason I suddenly get an urge to practice piano. Even though I usually hate piano lessons. It's a hard thing to explain an impulse or whim to another person, especially if they find it upsetting. The narrator had probably foreseen that the watchman would question his reason for taking a night stroll, since night/darkness is generally considered an inappropriate time for doing so. The narrator just didn't want to try to make the watchman understand, so he avoided the watchman's eyes as he passed.

I still am not quite sure what "interrupted cry" refers to. I wonder if it is some sort of metaphor. The narrator says it was not to call him back (from his night walk, I'm assuming,) or say goodbye. Thus, I infer that it was not directed at him. Since the cry was not a beckoning shout or farewell, both of which imply the crier has a favorable attitude toward the narrator, and since it was so far away, it might not be important what exactly the cry was. Maybe the narrator simply wants to emphasize that he is without companionship. If someone did call out to him not to leave, or to say adieu, it would show that he was cared for and not lonesome.

Overall, I think this poem is about getting past what appears to be negative or unfavorable experience, and that it might not really be a bad thing. Overcoming feelings of loneliness and unhappiness may in fact strengthen one's character, instead of weakening it. The narrator knows, because he's been there before. He's had personal knowledge of despair. He's been acquainted with the night.

Anton G.

The poem "Desert Places" by Robert Frost used images of different places that were physically empty to imply a sort of spiritual emptiness that he had in mind when he was writing the poem. He first told of snow falling on a field that he walked by, covering the whole field in a smooth white blanket, except for a few weeds sticking up. This image of a large area being white, except for a few tiny specks of green is a really empty picture. However, Frost does mention the few stubble and weeds for a reason. He doesn't just say he walked past a field covered in snow that was completely blanketed, uniform and smooth. He says that there are a few little tiny things showing through the snow. This, if you looked at it from the few weeds' points of view, would be a very lonely situation: all of your grass buddies have been covered and your one of the last blades left, up to your neck and about to drown under the white blanket. I think that the barren field in the beginning and implies a sense of hopelessness, because in the beginning, the grass already sparse and will soon be covered by the fast falling snow. Dark night, which is scary and empty, is also falling on the cold field. I think that the kind of loneliness that the empty field implies is a loneliness where there is nobody around you and you are without hope. The cold of the snow adds to the implied sad or down mood.

The second stanza of the poem is about the woods around the field having it (a loneliness) too. In the woods all of the animals are hiding in their lairs, warm and cozy, while he is walking through. I think the poem implies that the loneliness the forest feels is a sort of emptiness too; however it seems like the emptiness is inside of the forest more than the loneliness was inside of the field. In the forest, all of the animals are hiding, internal emptiness. There is still something there, it's just not where it can be seen or felt. When he says he is "too absent-spirited to count" and the loneliness includes him, it is like saying that he is there, but he isn't a part of the forest. He isn't anything that would make the forest feel less lonely, he is empty and as good company as nothing at all. On the field, the loneliness was on top of the field, the loneliness was the snow. That's more of a physical loneliness, like if there were no friends around. The forest is like an internal absence of emotion, like if you are so depressed that you can't feel anything and nothing moves inside of you.

In the third stanza, he says that the loneliness of the places would only get worse. More snow would fall and the field would get blanker and emptier, less emotion. This implies that he feels his emptiness would get worse. He would have less feeling and just be blanketed by a cold texture-less coating and become flat in his emotions.

In the last stanza, he says that the emptiness of different places doesn't bother him too much, because the emptiness of the field or the cold forest or even the universe isn't as strong or as personal as the emptiness that lies in him. What is surprising in this last stanza is the word choice. He says that they cannot scare him with their empty spaces because he scares himself with his own desert places. To me, this implies that he doesn't always know about his loneliness, but it scares him when he sees it. It's like he is surprised about the fact that he is lonely. Earlier, in the second stanza, the loneliness had included him unawares, as if the forest was so empty it didn't even know it was empty. That seems like how he must feel, but then when he thinks about it, he gets scared.

The poem doesn't imply much about the roots for his loneliness. It implies more that there isn't a real reason for his loneliness, there is just emptiness both inside and outside. He has both the external emptiness of the field and the internal emptiness of the forest, and he feels his emptiness is stronger or scarier than that of the whole universe, because it's inside of him. It's like he thinks that the worst kind of loneliness of all is personal, you can't feel someone else's loneliness because that's something you'd have to be connected to someone else to feel their pain. His emptiness is all him and that's what's scary.