Dec. 15, 2014: ACQUAINTED WITH THE NIGHT (Robert Frost)

Dear readers,

for exploration of stanzaic verse in the modern era, one could do much, much worse than studying the collected poems of Robert Frost (1874-1963). He stands at a sort of midway point between the Victorian and the modern–no so much chronologically, but by sensibility. But absent, for the most part, is the forced diction and high-toned vocabulary of the starched-collar days. In its place grows an American, semi-rural vernacular. He was also quite prolific, so that no matter how familiar with his work, readers can almost always find another example of his forms to study.

Here’s a none too obscure piece from about 1923. Its theme and imagery pretty much speak for themselves. What I enjoy is how he’s toyed a little bit with the sonnet as usually written in English, exchanging 3 quatrains for 4 tercets. Clever little piece of math there. And then in repeating his first line at the end, he steals a little style from the french villanelle, quite effective in this context. Have a good week– ed.

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,

One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.

I have been one acquainted with the night.

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