Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 290
Delmore Schwartz's "The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me" presents a very direct perspective on the physical, primal demands that reside within humanity. The poet expresses a duality of existence, a struggle between the spiritual and the physical, throughout the poem, but this battle is not a graceful one. In stanza two the poet delves into the awkwardness of this struggle. Lines 2-6 of the second stanza state
That heavy bear who sleeps with me,
Howls in his sleep for a world of sugar,
A sweetness intimate as the water’s clasp,
Howls in his sleep because the tight-rope
Trembles and shows the darkness beneath.
Though Schwartz presents physical desire as a metaphor, he doesn't give the reader a simple, dull, unthinking bear, deliberate and unflinching in its blunt desires. Instead the bear, despite its inherent physicality, desires an "intimate sweetness." The connotations of both "intimate" and "sweetness" suggest a gentle yearning for something delicate. The bear, incapable of gentle motions by its very nature, is frustrated because of its inability to express itself in the way it wants to. Frustrated in its desire, the creature also laments the delicate nature of the "tight-rope" it must walk. This extends the metaphor to show that the creature is a circus performer, always precariously balancing on the edge of the abyss, always trying to satisfy its desire while maintaining itself against the threat of oblivion.
In the third stanza, the narrator shows that this physical desire "Has followed [him] since the black womb held," and states the bear is "Dragging me with him in his mouthing care, / Amid the hundred million of his kind." In doing so, he shows that the frustrated desire is not unique, but is something experienced by everyone.
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