You might know Robert Frost for his more famous poems, such as "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," or "The Road Not Taken." While "Acquainted with the Night" isn't as likely to be posted on a refrigerator, it's just as fascinating and important.
Frost, who lived from 1874-1963, was born in San Francisco, but, excepting a few years living in England, spent most of his life in the northeast United States. He often wrote about the beauty of nature – but, if you read his poems closely, there can be a dark undercurrent. As you might have guessed from the title, it's not hard to find the darkness in "Acquainted with the Night."
First published in the The Virginia Quarterly Review in 1927, and then in Frost's book West Running Brook in 1928, "Acquainted with the Night" is written in terza rima. This poetic form originated in Italy, with Dante's Divine Comedy. It's much easier to find rhymes in Italian, so this cyclical rhyming form is very difficult in English, but Frost masters it. The three-line stanzas, intertwined with rhyme, trick you into thinking that you're moving forward in sound while, really, you are stuck. As we read, we'll find out how this form fits the content of "Acquainted with the Night."
Have you ever had to go somewhere by yourself late at night, and gotten a little creeped out and lonely? Or, maybe you've had the feeling that nothing is wrong…but nothing is right, either. Or maybe you've been so sad that even things that don't have feelings, like places or objects, seem sad to you. If so, this poem should speak to you.
While the poem's language and action is relatively simple, every line could have a hidden meaning, waiting to be discovered. That's what makes Robert Frost's poems so great –they can have so many meanings, so everyone can relate to them. Basically, this poem is about those creepy, melancholy times when we seem to be acquainted, but not friends, with the world. It's about those times when it seems like night will never end.
When you read this poem, it might help to think about a time when you've felt like that: try to imagine exactly what you felt like, where you were, what was around you. Though we might not have walked the exact same path as Frost does in this poem, we've all been acquainted with the night, in some way or other. Shmoop can help you begin to figure out what this poem means, but, in the end, you should create your own meaning based on how the poem makes you feel.
Robert Frost on Poets.org
A brief biography of Frost and links to the online text of some of his poetry.
Controversial Editing of Frost's Notebooks
A discussion of the recent publishing and editing of Frost's private notebooks.
Robert Frost on Bartleby.com
A site compiling information and online texts of more of Frost's poetry.
Frost Reads "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"
Video of Frost reading aloud "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," possibly his most famous poem.
Video version of "Acquainted with the Night"
Images matched with Ron Perlman reading the poem aloud.
Listen to "Acquainted with the Night"
Listen to Frost read his poem.
Pictures of Frost's Notebooks
This image shows Frost's original notebooks in contrast to their transcription. If you have messy handwriting, show this to the next person who complains about it.
Picture of Aged Frost
Wondering what Frost looked like?
Frost and his wife
Frost is younger here, with his wife.