The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Delmore Schwartz has been described by the editors of The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry (1973) as a poet concerned about “divisions within his own consciousness,” and “The Heavy Bear Who Goes with Me” dramatizes that division. In the poem, Schwartz personifies his own body and gives it a life apart from his consciousness. The speaker of the poem is actually the disembodied mental consciousness of the poet, who offers observations on the physical part of his humanity as if it were a separate being. To dramatize the differences between mind and body, Schwartz describes the body as if it were a bear.

The three irregular stanzas of the poem offer an analysis of the “heavy bear” that seems to accompany the speaker wherever he goes. This “Clumsy and lumbering” creature (line 3) that loves “candy, anger, and sleep” (line 6) carries on an active existence at the speaker’s side. The speaker describes the bear as a “factotum,” one that acts on behalf of another—in this case, the bear is acting for the speaker, as if the speaker were giving directions but not directly taking part in the experiences which the bear undergoes.

This constant companion that eats and sleeps with the speaker does not seem to be able to communicate coherently; instead, the bear howls to express its feelings. This animalistic cry signals its hunger—for sugar and other sweets—and also its fear. Breaking the spell he has created by...

(The entire section is 520 words.)