19 pages 38 minutes read

Robert Frost

Acquainted with the Night

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1928

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West-Running Brook” by Robert Frost (1928)

The centerpiece poem of the collection in which “Acquainted with the Night” appeared, the poem establishes Frost’s fascination with contrarieties. The river in New Hampshire is the only river in the state that does flow eastward, toward the ocean. The “white wave” (Line 25) that runs counter to itself suggests the contradictory position of the speaker here, at once emotionally vulnerable and happily ironic.

How the Old Mountains” by Emily Dickinson (1862)

A poet whose works were just beginning to circulate in the 1920s, Dickinson matches Frost’s temperament here. The speaker is enthralled by the stunning drama of the sunset and the slow approach of night. Quite alone, she is as conflicted as Frost’s speaker is, between the exhilarating feeling over such beauty and the reality of time passing and how the sunset suggests the agony of impermanence.

Tulips” by Sylvia Plath (1961)

Because Frost’s poem is so often read as a study in depression, its ironic and spirited parody of such heavy-handed emotions can best be appreciated by comparing it to this poem, written just months before Plath, 30, died by suicide. The image of the flowers in the speaker’s hospital room suggests the limited power of love to ease her troubled spirit.