Monday, January 16, 2012

Acquainted with Disdain

Acquainted with the Night
by 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,
A luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.


TC said...

Small wonder that gal walked without specific aim. For her "to walk" would mean "to sidle". Sidling can never admit to a specific aim, even it it has one. But I suppose indirection is just another direction.

(What am I saying?! Blogging with a fever ought to be banned!)

Frankly, I don't for one minute believe Robert Frost had the slightest idea what the night has or had in store for him or for any of us. And certainly he ought to have been able to afford an umbrella, for that longest walk. (And if not an umbrella, at least a hobbermu, I am being prompted to say.)

John Keats, dying, said bowing out was bad enough, but going off "like a frog in a frost" -- just embarrassing.

Sidling toward the cemetery, now that might be a better way.

Francis Bacon (that other one) said, Let my death come from Spain.

He was referring to the fact that, in his day, it took months for a letter to arrive from Spain.

What with all those sinking ships, frosted frogs, and sidling post-ponies...

Nin Andrews said...

Oh, I hope you feel better soon!

I love that Frances Bacon line. Let death come in Spain Reminds me a little of Vajello, of course . . .

I forget that you actually met Frost.

MVT said...

TC - Did Keats really say that? A "frog?"

TC said...


FB said Let my death come FROM (not IN) Spain -- i.e. let it come by the slow route, make many stops along the way, and take as long as possible.

"On the other side, true dispatch is a rich thing. For time is the measure of business, as money is of wares; and business is bought at a dear hand, where there is small dispatch. The Spartans and Spaniards have been noted to be of small dispatch; Mi venga la muerte de Spagna; Let my death come from Spain; for then it will be sure to be long in coming."

Francis Bacon (1561-1626), "Of Dispatch"


About that rather poignant Keats line:

I find that one of the problems with knowing anything at all about history, and letting it slip on the net, is that somebody will always think you're pulling their leg. In any case, as another scholar once said, You could look it up.

John Keats to Fanny Brawne, writ during his final illness:

"March (?) 1820

"My dearest Girl,
In consequence of our company I suppose I shall not see you before tomorrow. I am much better to day - indeed all I have to complain of is want of strength and a little tightness in the Chest. I envied Sam's walk with you to day; which I will not do again as I may get very tired of envying. I imagine you now sitting in your new black dress which I like so much and if I were a little less selfish and more enthusiastic I should run round and surprise you with a knock at the door. I fear I am too prudent for a dying kind of Lover. Yet, there is a great difference between going off in warm blood like Romeo, and making one's exit like a frog in a frost - I had nothing particular to say to day, but not intending that there shall be any interruption to our correspondence (which at some future time I propose offering to Murray) I write something I God bless you my sweet Love Illness is a long lane, but I see you at the end of it, and shall mend my pace as well as possible


(J-K stands for, yes... John Keats)

TC said...

(And by the by, Nin, speaking of curious associative logics... we've had a spell of very cold weather, frost this morning on the growing things... a white topping which reminded me a bit of the hair on the head of that crusty old coot Mr Frosty Frost, as it appeared on the night I became acquainted with him!)

TC said...

A good view of the snow atop Mt. Frost, about the time I first glimpsed it.

Nin Andrews said...

Thanks Tom! I love that image of death as a letter. It's a great image.
An aside, I so miss writing letters. Now that my mother has died, I don't have anyone to write to . . .
Another aside, maybe because so much of what I know about poetry comes from childhood, long before I really understood what it was, my favorite Frost poem was always "The Witch of Coos." Now that I look it up, I see it listed as a play. Oh well. As a kid, I loved that.
And I was always bothered by the Eliot line,
"like a patient etherized upon a table" . . .
I still am. I would ask my mother about it, and she would laugh and laugh.