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 clop,
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 the beginning
Again and again,
while history is unforgiven.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Delmore Schwartz's poem In The Naked Bed, In Plato’s Cave


  1. Raspberry says:

    I think it’s about how even when you learn something, you’re still ignorant of something else. The Allegory of the Cave is about waking up to the fact that we *are* ignorant, which is what the ‘Plato’s cave’ bit of the title references. The ‘naked bed’ is another cave, this one built by the speaker of the poem of the world around him. As he wakes up, he slowly becomes aware of the world outside. The last couple lines are about how s/he still hasn’t learned from the past, possibly because s/he goes through this every day.

  2. mary says:

    i dont think it’s about the Holocaust but im not sure. after reading it, it seemed to be about time; how it is unforgiving and keeps on going, not stopping for anyone. it’s still but always moving, things happen that matter and things happen that don’t. time is indifferent.

  3. Shimonbentzvi says:

    I think this poem is about the inability of anyone with any feeling of realizing the extent to which the Holocaust and other genocides have ppervaded human history.

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