Frost And Natural Rhythm

Acquainted with the Night

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 goodbye;
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.

by Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Iambic Pentameter

Iambic pentameter is a metrical line in poetry that has been used since the beginning of the English language. Many have argued that it is the most naturally-occurring meter in the English language, and several famous epic poems have employed it.

Pentameter refers to the 5 feet that occur in the line. In poetry, a foot is a term used to delineate the units of rhythm in every line. Iambic refers to the type of foot that is being used: An iamb is a unit of rhythm with one unaccented syllable followed by an accented syllable. In the first line from Frost’s poem reproduced below, I have separated the five feet with vertical bars and marked the accented syllables with underscores.

I – have | been – one | ac – quain | ted – with | the – night.

The line should have a galloping rhythm that sounds like da-DA-da-DA-da-DA-da-DA-da-DA. When forced, such a line may sound wooden and strained. However, when executed skilfully, iambic pentameter can have a very natural grace. Take the lines, “I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet/ When far away an interrupted cry/ Came over houses from another street.” Here Frost sounds quite conversational. Though in fact, each of these lines is written in near-perfect iambic pentameter.

 

3 thoughts on “Frost And Natural Rhythm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s