(Poem #180) The Emperor of Ice-Cream
Call 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.
"A poem need not have a meaning and, like most things in nature, often does not have." - Wallace Stevens, from Opus Posthumous, "Adagia" (1959) A line like that should absolve me of all critical responsiblities :-) Actually, though, this poem (one of Stevens' most famous) is hardly nonsensical. Rather, it describes (with great clarity, I might add) a funeral scene, while commenting on the very human fallibilities of those attending the wake. Not much more to say, I'm afraid; I'll leave it to you to come up with your own interpretations of each line (especially the most controversial of them all, 'let be be finale of seem'). Good luck :-). thomas. [Links] Lots and lots of lovely links for you today. A good introductory essay to the meaning of this poem can be found at [broken link] http://www.arches.uga.edu/~lizkelly/eng4.htm while a more in-depth analysis lurks at [broken link] http://www.wmich.edu/english/tchg/640/Mark.Emperor.html [broken link] http://www.thebrothers.com/eraaz/poets.html#The Emperor of Ice Cream is part of a larger article on Stevens and Theodore Roethke. And of course there's the Minstrels biography at poem #154 Read all our prevous poems at http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/