In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter – bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.”

Analysis, meaning and summary of Stephen Crane's poem In the desert

62 Comments

  1. Mehhhh says:

    I feel that when it says that it likes the taste of the heart even when it is bitter, it means that it loves itself and accepts its bitterness and enjoys it because it chooses to do so.thats just my Opinion tho:/

  2. tai wai lee says:

    I assume some One is directing each of all of our lives.
    Different one has different path
    And different way to look at it.
    Steven Crane has his point of view.
    I like his poems a lot.

    Here’s my view that I wrote a long time ago:
    ………………………………………..
    I have a sip of coffee
    Sweet without sugar;
    I taste the nectar of life
    Happy within pain.
    ………………………………………..

    tai wai lee from USA

  3. Davidin Santa Clarita says:

    When you read a poem, it means what you think it means; not what the author thinks it means. Robert Frost said he never thought of death when he wrote “Stopping in a woods on a snowy Evening”. To me it has always been about contemplating ones own death and, yes, suicide.
    This poem is about a man who willfully and joyfully consumes the very thing that sustains him. I see it as a metaphor for the way we destroy our environment for profit, and I think of Easter Island.

  4. river says:

    According to traditional Chinese medicine, human heart needs the taste of bitterness.
    But I like this poem, because it symbolizes vividly the fate of modernity.

  5. Timmy Testicles says:

    Best… Poem… Ever…

  6. Shannon Woodside says:

    The poem isnt just about knowing pain. It is about relishing in the pain; savoring it. He doesnt just acknowledge he is eating his heart, but that he enjoys it. The bitterness is his solace.

  7. Abalinda says:

    Someone said it is about love. It is about love definitely, but I think that is an over-simplification. I think it is about how often we would rather feel pain than feel nothing at all. It is about how we listen to sad songs that are beautiful even though they make us sad. As humans, we feel strongly. Deep down, we are not these polished people who have everything together. We are really naked, bestial creatures who cannot control everything and who are often in metaphorical deserts because we are actually alone and have nothing but ourselves. Still, we celebrate these emotions which are frequently bitter because they are what make us alive and human… So it can be about love because without the pain in love, we would not be human, but I do not think it is ONLY about love.

  8. Terry says:

    I like Neil’s comment #48&49. And so with that in mind here I am.
    I feel the poem refers to more than just love.
    The creature is within us all.
    By taking in/upon us, that which is of us, be it bitter, distasteful and awful, can we become better.
    Only by facing these truths, processing by our heart these distastful aspects of our human condition, can we learn to evolve from the creature form to a better enlightened being.
    Thats my take.
    wish me luck with it.
    Now back to my meal, I’ve a lot to consume.

  9. Neil says:

    I had a quick look through all the comments and didn’t see one that actually hit on the core of the poem. I am no poetry expert but, when I first read this one, many years ago, I realised immediately what it was about. I have had a framed copy of it on my window ledge for years – I’m looking at it now. The poem is about LOVE! We go through it and get hurt by it, but although it hurts we go back for more. Look at it in this way and all the symbolism falls into place.

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  11. Alex says:

    If someone were to ask you if you liked your heart, you’d probably answer yes. I have a good heart, meaning you love, or are charitable. But this man has a bitter heart because he’s an outcast, in the desert, there is no life in the desert. Deep dude. Wow. Brilliant.

  12. Laura says:

    Among all living creatures, man is the only to willingly destroy himself. Knowing what brings self destruction – yet engages in it anyways.

  13. Brittany says:

    I think the poem can be about anything we indulge in, but to me it’s about depression. It’s horribly painful, but you bury yourself in it because it’s comfortable. It’s who you are so you just give in to it and you’d never change it because it’s special because it’s yours. It’s the depths of you. That’s what I think the poem’s about.

  14. Tiffany says:

    Probably not the purpose of the poem, but what I recently found in it was an explanation of human nature when it comes to love.
    To love someone so much that it hurts; that it feels like you’ve exposed your heart and eaten of it.
    When you love someone you give them the power to hurt you, which is bitter.
    But it is also good.
    Or;
    “It is bitter-bitter, but I like it because it is bitter, and because it is my heart.”

  15. stien ramstierin says:

    Crane was a god hating down to heart racist, he died in germany were he met his aryan brothers and denied god and died as racist.me frieds and brothers learn from this man THE GREAT Adolf Hiler did you should to

  16. Daniel says:

    A poem is a poem for a purpose. That innate purpose is to spark or tickle a certain fancy within the reader in order for the reader to derive purpose from the poem. The poem does not give purpose, nor does the poem stipulate that a certain feeling or perception is manditory after reading it. This poem is for the reader. The readers life, the readers situation, the readers feelings, the readers perception is only stipulated by the individual reader. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer. The reader creates there own feeling; therefore your responses to the poem tells a listener more about you then the poem.

  17. Daniel says:

    A poem is a poem for a purpose. That innate purpose is to spark or tickle a certain fancy within the reader in order for the reader to derive purpose from the poem. The poem does not give purpose, nor does the poem stipulate that a certain feeling or perception is manditory after reading it. This poem is for the reader. The readers life, the readers situation, the readers feelings, the readers perception is only stipulated by the individual reader. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer. The reader creates there own feeling; therefore your responses to the poem tells a listener more about you then the poem.

  18. earlabayan says:

    this poem is really meaningful to me. it helped me in my life! great poem!

  19. Ashley says:

    one of my favorite poems.
    main idea is: we are the way we are because we like it.
    he’s eating his heart which he says is bitter and bitter things usually aren’t good, however he likes it

  20. Joshua says:

    Chris, it is precicely because we love Stephen Crane’s poetry so much that we will read it from the internet. We love it so much, that if we do not have bookstores to find his work, credit cards to order his work, or enough money to purchase it in the first place, then we will succomb a thousend times to finding it on the internet without cost.

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