The Heavy Bear Who Goes with Me

by Delmore Schwartz

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Themes

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Some of the prominent themes of Delmore Schwartz's "The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me" focus on the duality of human existence. The poet presents a conflict between the spiritual and the physical, the latter primarily represented by the metaphor of the bear. The conflict creates an awkwardness in the speaker's existence. In the first stanza, Schwartz writes:

The heavy bear who goes with me,
A manifold honey to smear his face,
Clumsy and lumbering here and there,
The central ton of every place,

With its face "smeared" and its body "lumbering," the creature is not graceful in the pursuit of its desires. The narrator's constant attempts to keep the monstrous, uncouth creature in check suggests the themes that we must always fight against our inner urges, and that we are, by nature, primal creatures.

In stanza two, Schwartz writes that the creature

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.

Here Schwartz complicates the earlier view of the lumbering bear, showing that deep within, the creature desires a more gentle, intimate connection. The creature, more than capable of instilling fear in others, "[h]owls in his sleep" and dreams itself a tight-robe walker, fearing "the darkness beneath." This presents another side of the creature, and also promotes the theme that even monsters can be afraid.

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