In the Naked Bed, in Plato’s Cave

By Delmore Schwartz 1913–1966 Delmore Schwartz
In the naked bed, in Plato’s cave,
Reflected headlights slowly slid the wall,   
Carpenters hammered under the shaded window,   
Wind troubled the window curtains all night long,   
A fleet of trucks strained uphill, grinding,   
Their freights covered, as usual.
The ceiling lightened again, the slanting diagram   
Slid slowly forth.
                            Hearing the milkman’s chop,   
His striving up the stair, the bottle’s chink,   
I rose from bed, lit a cigarette,
And walked to the window. The stony street   
Displayed the stillness in which buildings stand,   
The street-lamp’s vigil and the horse’s patience.   
The winter sky’s pure capital
Turned me back to bed with exhausted eyes.

Strangeness grew in the motionless air. The loose   
Film grayed. Shaking wagons, hooves’ waterfalls,   
Sounded far off, increasing, louder and nearer.   
A car coughed, starting. Morning, softly   
Melting the air, lifted the half-covered chair   
From underseas, kindled the looking-glass,   
Distinguished the dresser and the white wall.   
The bird called tentatively, whistled, called,   
Bubbled and whistled, so! Perplexed, still wet   
With sleep, affectionate, hungry and cold. So, so,   
O son of man, the ignorant night, the travail   
Of early morning, the mystery of beginning   
Again and again,
                         while History is unforgiven.

Delmore Schwartz, “In the Naked Bed, in Plato’s Cave” from Selected Poems (1938-1958): Summer Knowledge. Copyright © 1967 by Delmore Schwartz. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation,

Source: Selected Poems (1938-1958): Summer Knowledge (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1967)

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Poet Delmore Schwartz 1913–1966

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 Delmore  Schwartz


Delmore Schwartz had, writes Alfred Kazin, "a feeling for literary honor, for the highest standards, that one can only call noble—he loved the nobility of example presented by the greatest writers of our century, and he wanted in this sense to be noble himself, a light unto the less talented.... So he suffered, unceasingly, because he had often to disappoint himself—because the world turned steadily more irrational and . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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