'The Emperor Of Ice-Cream' by Wallace Stevens

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Harmonium1923Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.Take from the dresser of deal.
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Emperor of Ice-Cream by Wallace Stevens: A Masterpiece of Poetic Complexity

When it comes to poetic complexity, few works can match the sheer brilliance of Wallace Stevens' The Emperor of Ice-Cream. This poem, written in 1922, is a prime example of how Stevens was able to use words to create a world of his own, a world that was both surreal and real, both playful and serious.

At its core, The Emperor of Ice-Cream is a meditation on life and death, on the beauty and transience of existence. But Stevens doesn't approach these weighty topics in a straightforward manner; instead, he weaves a tapestry of images and metaphors that leaves the reader both dazzled and perplexed.

Analysis of the Poem

The poem begins with a seemingly simple image: "Call the roller of big cigars". This line sets the scene for the rest of the poem, as we are transported to a world of luxury and decadence. The "big cigars" suggest wealth and leisure, and the fact that someone must "call the roller" implies a certain level of servitude.

But then the poem takes a turn, as the second line declares, "The muscular one, and bid him whip / In kitchen cups concupiscent curds." Suddenly we are in the realm of the sensual and the erotic, as the "muscular one" is asked to whip up some "concupiscent curds" in kitchen cups.

This juxtaposition of luxury and sensuality immediately sets up a tension that runs throughout the poem. Stevens seems to be suggesting that the pursuit of pleasure can be both alluring and dangerous, that there is a fine line between indulgence and excess.

The next stanza introduces another layer of complexity, as we are introduced to the "wenches" who are "instructed to be ready with the clean / Linen, cuffs and collars." Here we see the theme of servitude again, as the women are expected to attend to the needs of the wealthy men.

But Stevens doesn't portray them as mere objects; rather, he imbues them with a sense of dignity and grace. They are "wenches", which suggests a certain level of youth and beauty, but they are also "instructed", which implies a level of intelligence and competence.

The next stanza is perhaps the most famous in the poem, as it declares, "Let the wenches dawdle in such dress / As they are used to wear, and let the boys / Bring flowers in last month's newspapers." Here we see Stevens at his most playful, as he subverts our expectations and creates a sense of whimsy.

The idea of the women wearing their usual clothes, rather than dressing up for the occasion, is both charming and rebellious. And the image of the boys bringing flowers in last month's newspapers is both absurd and poignant, as it suggests a sense of nostalgia and decay.

The final stanza brings everything together, as we are told, "Let be be finale of seem." Here Stevens seems to be suggesting that we should accept things as they are, that we should embrace the impermanence of life and find beauty in the moment.

The final lines of the poem are perhaps the most enigmatic, as they declare, "The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream." This line has been interpreted in many ways, but to me it suggests that the pursuit of pleasure, the pursuit of the ephemeral, is the only true power we have in this world.

Interpretation of the Poem

The Emperor of Ice-Cream is a poem that demands interpretation, as it is full of complex images and metaphors that can be read in many different ways. Some critics have seen the poem as a celebration of the sensual and the erotic, while others have seen it as a meditation on the transience of life.

To me, the poem is both of these things and more. It is a work that celebrates the beauty of life, while acknowledging its fragility and impermanence. It is a work that suggests that we should embrace pleasure and indulgence, but not at the expense of our dignity and self-respect.

Stevens' use of language is key to the poem's success, as he employs a wide range of images and metaphors that create a sense of depth and complexity. The juxtaposition of luxury and sensuality, of servitude and dignity, creates a tension that runs throughout the poem, and the playful wordplay and subversion of expectations keeps the reader engaged.

Ultimately, The Emperor of Ice-Cream is a masterpiece of poetic complexity, a work that rewards multiple readings and interpretations. It is a testament to Stevens' skill as a poet, and his ability to use words to create a world that is both beautiful and haunting.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Emperor of Ice-Cream: A Masterpiece of Wallace Stevens

Wallace Stevens, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, is known for his complex and enigmatic poetry. His works are often characterized by their philosophical depth, intricate imagery, and musicality. Among his many poems, "The Emperor of Ice-Cream" stands out as a masterpiece that encapsulates his unique style and vision. In this essay, we will explore the poem's themes, structure, and language, and analyze its significance in the context of Stevens' oeuvre.

The poem consists of two stanzas, each comprising eight lines. The first stanza sets the scene in a room where a wake is being held for a deceased woman. The speaker describes the room's atmosphere as "concupiscent curds" and "breathing like a cow." The language is deliberately vulgar and unpoetic, emphasizing the mundane and physical aspects of the scene. The speaker then introduces the titular character, the Emperor of Ice-Cream, who is "barefoot" and "in his pajamas." The juxtaposition of the grandiose title with the casual attire of the character creates a sense of irony and subversion.

The second stanza shifts the focus to a group of young boys who are "whistling" and "stamping" outside the room. The speaker addresses them directly, urging them to "let the lamp affix its beam" and "bring flowers in last month's newspapers." The language becomes more poetic and elevated, contrasting with the earthy tone of the first stanza. The final lines of the poem, "The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream," are repeated twice, creating a sense of closure and emphasis.

The poem's themes are manifold and complex. One of the most prominent themes is the contrast between life and death, and the transience of human existence. The wake is a reminder of the woman's mortality, and the boys outside represent the vitality and energy of youth. The Emperor of Ice-Cream, with his casual attire and lack of pomp, symbolizes the indifference of nature to human affairs. The repetition of the phrase "the only emperor" suggests that death is the ultimate ruler, and that all human endeavors are ultimately futile.

Another theme that runs through the poem is the tension between the mundane and the poetic. The language of the first stanza is deliberately vulgar and unpoetic, emphasizing the physicality of the scene. The second stanza, on the other hand, is more elevated and poetic, with its references to lamps, flowers, and newspapers. The contrast between the two stanzas creates a sense of tension and ambiguity, suggesting that poetry can emerge from the most unlikely sources.

The poem's structure is also significant. The two stanzas are symmetrical in length and structure, with eight lines each. The repetition of the phrase "the only emperor" creates a sense of unity and coherence, while the repetition of the final line emphasizes its importance. The poem's musicality is also noteworthy, with its use of alliteration, assonance, and internal rhyme. The phrase "concupiscent curds" is a particularly striking example of Stevens' use of sound to create meaning.

The language of the poem is dense and complex, with multiple layers of meaning. Stevens uses a range of literary devices, including metaphor, allusion, and irony, to create a rich and nuanced text. The phrase "concupiscent curds," for example, is a metaphor that suggests the decadence and excess of the scene. The reference to the Emperor of Ice-Cream is an allusion to the Roman Empire, with its associations of power and grandeur. The irony of the title, with its juxtaposition of the grandiose and the mundane, creates a sense of subversion and playfulness.

In conclusion, "The Emperor of Ice-Cream" is a masterpiece of modern poetry that encapsulates Wallace Stevens' unique style and vision. The poem's themes of life and death, the mundane and the poetic, and the transience of human existence are explored with depth and complexity. The poem's structure and language are also significant, with their use of repetition, musicality, and literary devices. Stevens' ability to create meaning through sound and imagery is on full display in this poem, making it a timeless work of art that continues to captivate and inspire readers today.

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