The narrator of the poem describes his loneliness as he walks on the streets of an isolated city at night. He has passed the city limits along every city lane, but has not found anything to console him in his depression. Even when he talks to another person, the narrator doesn’t express the feelings because he knows that nobody will understand him. When he hears a cry he realizes that it is not meant for him. He looks up at the moon and realizes that time doesn’t mean anything for him because his isolation is endless.
The poem is written in strict iambic pentameter, with the fourteen lines of a traditional sonnet. The rhyme scheme is third rhyme pattern, which is very difficult to write in English.
This poem is understood to be a description of the narrator’s experiences with depression. The key element of his depression is his full isolation. Frost emphasizes this by using the first-person term I at the beginning of seven of the lines. Even though the watchman physically present in the poem, he does not play an emotional or a mental role: the narrator stays solitary. The same happens, when the narrator hears the cry, he says to himself that it is not meant for him, because nobody waiting for him at home.
The narrator’s incapacity to make eye contact with people he meets presumes that his depression has made him inefficient to interact in society. While normal people are associated with the day (happiness, optimism, sunlight), the narrator is acquainted with the night, and thus can’t find anything mutual with those around him. The narrator can’t even use the same sense of time as other people in the city: instead of using a clock, he relies solely on the sky.
Ironically, as night is the only time that he comes out from his solitude, he has even fewer opportunities to meet other people who can help him deal with depression. His meetings with the night build a cycle of depression that can never end.
Robert Frost adds uncertainty in the poem by including the present perfect tense, which is used to describe something from the recent past, as well as something from the past that is still continuing in the present. It seems that the narrator’s depression can arise from the recent past because of the writer uses the phrase ‘I have been’. Also the verb tense suggests that this depression could be a permanent, even though unseen, force. It is not clear whether the narrator will truly be able to come back to society or if his depression will occur again and make him meet with the night.
The narrator of the poem describes his loneliness as he walks on the streets of an isolated city at night. He has passed the city limits along every city lane, but has not found anything to console him in his depression. Even when he talks to another person, the narrator doesn’t express the feelings because he knows that nobody will understand him.