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Darkness and Light

Symbol Analysis

It may seem obvious that a poem called "Acquainted with the Night" has a lot to do with darkness, but it's also about light, even if it's about the lack of light. There's more to the dark and light of this poem than meets the eye, though. This poem can be read as a metaphor for the dark of depression and loneliness. Yet, the light of the moon still reaches beyond the lights of the city and humanity, a symbol of hope.

  • Line 1: This line establishes the setting of the poem, which is the night. In this poem, night is an extended metaphor for depression: the narrator has been acquainted with depression, not just literal night. Each episode in the poem, then, can be read as an individual metaphor for depression.
  • Line 3: When Frost outwalks the city lights, it's another metaphor for depression. Yet this line takes it farther: not only is the speaker depressed, when he gets far enough into his depression, there is no light, or happiness, in his life, at least not from cities and civilization.
  • Line 12: The phrase "luminary clock" is a metaphor comparing the moon to a clock. This moon is the brightest image in the poem; its light reaches our speaker even when he's gone past city lights. The depth of the moon's light is a symbol for how the natural world prevails over civilization.
  • Line 13: The moon may give our speaker light, but it doesn't cure his depression. The speaker uses personification, saying that the moon "proclaims" that the time is "neither wrong nor right," leaving the speaker unsatisfied.
  • Line 14: By repetition, the final line turns "I have been one acquainted with the night" into a refrain.

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