Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Acquainted with the Night

Robert Frost


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.

See the Minstrels commentary here.

For form freaks: As the comments point out, this is a terza rima, but a pretty special one, not only because it's also a 14 line sonnet, but because it also (in a move faintly reminiscent of villanelles?), makes its first line its last. All in all, a stunning poem.

The other famous poem to use the terza rima in English (which Minstrels, amazingly, does not mention, thus giving me the opportunity to add value) is Shelley's Ode to the West Wind.

A note on the text: The Minstrels version, as well as a number of other versions I've seen on the Web, say "O luminary clock against the sky". That makes no sense, and is not how I remember it, so I'm pretty sure it's an error.


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