Comment on the theme of Wallace Steven’s poem ‘The Emperor of Ice-Cream.’
English Literature

Comment on the theme of Wallace Steven’s poem ‘The Emperor of Ice-Cream.’

‘The Emperor of Ice Cream’ poetry by Wallace Stevens is well known and notorious because of the difficulty that it presents to pupils. The poem is composed of two equilibrated 8-line parts. The scene is supposed to represent a death wake.   In 1945, Stevens pointed out that this poem was “unique.” He said every poetry, “must be unique, as if it were the temporarily full language which inspires it, even if the vaguest feeling inspires it.” The context of the poem is a funeral, an opportunity for one of the favourite juxtapositions between life and death:

The American poet says that “is obviously not about icecream, but about being as distinguished from seeming to be. ‘ cream is an absolute good.” The coolness and pleasure of the ice cream are the key to this poetry on how life and death, pleasure and sorrow coexist. The ice cream picture represents horrific death and the wake that belong to life. Cold, pleasant, commonplace and gesture at the same time, Icecream is a metaphor of life and death. Ice cream also represents the change and flow in this poetry, both of which are vital components of existence. It represents movement and change, since it melts rapidly. In its frozen form, it simultaneously represents hardness and solidity. The concept is that although reality is a firm aspect, the ‘Emporer of Ice cream’ will surely alter, ‘Change and Flow’ as its main theme.

We are seeing the development of a thematic conflict between life and death in the poem “The Emperor of Ice cream.” The poem is divided into two strokes that may be described as the strokes of “life” and “death.” This concept is supported by its form and substance and is complemented by a poem, which is not only physically split into stanzas, but also the content and meaning of each stanza. The title conveys a feeling of comedic lightness possibly in conjunction with the term ‘Emperor’ that denotes power and control. Either death or life should not be taken too literally is just what the poet appears to suggest in his title.

We may examine the form of the poetry and answer the question why it was organised in such a manner after examining the content. The opening section of the poem takes on a bright, joyous look with a scenario of dawdling wenches, guys with flowers and a cigar roller with a “muscular” aspect. The term “concupiscent” is meaningful longing for sex. Steven noted in 1945 that “no genealogies” were included in this sentence. They just convey desire for life, but in contrast to the poems they express or emphasise the misery of existence, and there is something extra that gives them a cheap lustre. The lifeless corpse that the second verse describes is in contrast to the “curds.” The allusion to cigars, a phallic picture also has a sexual image. Sex i.e., the power and death of life carry on in this poetry concurrently. You may imagine that the poem took place during a party or celebration with all the joy of the opening verse (perhaps it is). However, as we cross the centre into the second stanza, the tone of the poem turns dimly. This time, the image shows a chilly gloomy room with inexpensive furnishings that lack critical elements (glass knobs).

Comment on the theme of Wallace Steven’s poem ‘The Emperor of Ice-Cream.’

A lady is in the room and has a sheet covering not all of her body draped over her body. From such words we may conclude: “to demonstrate how cold and dumb she is.” If we look into the stanza further, we find proof that the lady was impoverished. This lady is not treated in the same way as a woman of nobility on her own deathbed, with her feet protruding from the material which covers her torso. We must also focus on the second to final line of each stanza and also on what the last line (identical on both poems) and its significance is. “Let be final of appearing” may be understood to make things seem as they are and to look less. In the first verse the boys and women are alive and healthy, they need to enjoy their life as much as they can. The few that are youthful girls and ‘boys’ in the next line symbolise both youth—whatever is left far behind by the deceased lady, as in contrast, the woman is dead in the second verse and is to stay that way.

Also, in second stanza, the second to final line; “Let the lamp affix its beam,”The focus, it appears, has shifted from the elderly lady in the room described in the opening line to her family and friends. Finally, the final line between the two stanzae: “The only Emperor is the emperor of ice-cream” is that of the ice-creams, at first, is short, and delicious, but as time goes on, the ice-cream dissolves and loses its appealing characteristics, which may be used as a metaphor to represent the cycle of life.

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