© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.


Symbol Analysis

This is a bleak and lonely poem. Everything seems distant, and the speaker is acquainted, but not friends with, the night. The poem is set in a city, but the only other human we see is an ominous watchman, whom the speaker avoids, and the only humans we hear are the speaker, who stops his own footsteps, and the sound of a far away cry. The speaker hopes that someone is calling for him, but no one is. The images of the poem seem distant and detached.

  • Lines 1 and 14: The word "acquainted" is a lonely word. We are acquainted with someone if we've briefly met them, but wouldn't call them our friend (or our enemy). So, in this poem, the speaker knows the night, and although he has a lot of experience with it, he is not its intimate friend. The use of the word "acquainted" could also be an understatement – maybe the speaker actually is more intimate with the night and its sorrows than he would like to admit.
  • Line 3: The speaker is in a city, but he's gone past the lights, and he's alone, on the outskirts of a place where many people live. This physical distance is a metaphor for his loneliness.
  • Lines 5 and 6: Here we see the watchman, but he's not a very comforting person to run into on a lonely night. Actually, as we find out when the speaker avoids him in line 6, he's a little scary.
  • Lines 8-10: This voice is one of the creepiest parts of the poem. Before these lines, the poem deals mostly with the speaker's surroundings, but line 10 shows his thoughts, reflecting that the cry is not for him. This line doesn't explicitly express emotion, but the speaker took the effort to stop and listen to this cry, and seems sad that it's not calling for him.
  • Lines 11-12: The image of the moon at its unearthly distance is sad and lonely, like the speaker.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...