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The Emperor Of Ice-Cream Analysis

Author: Poetry of Wallace Stevens Type: Poetry Views: 759

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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.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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This is a very dark poem. (Perhaps I think that because I first encountered it in a Stephen King book.) The narrator is not ordering people about, he is making world weary observations about the events that are happening. "Go," he says, "have your party." The muscular cigar maker, the tawdry local girls, the lustful boys; they are all in the transitory state of youth, but, like the fresh flowers in the old newspaper, they too will decay. There is the shabbiness of poverty throughout the whole poem.
Reality starts to seep in. "Be" becomes the end of the illusionary seeming. The lady has had a hard life, her horn-like feet protrude from a sheet that is too short to cover both her feet and face at the same time. The flimsy dresser has no knobs. She has tried vainly (or gamely?) to decorate it with peacock shaped stitchery, but one imagines cheap linen. One wonders whether it was the only sheet she had, or perhaps it was a tablecloth. The Emperor of Ice Cream is revealed, like Poe's Red Death emerging from the bloodily lit black room. Life is sweet, but it is transitory, like melting ice cream, and Death is ultimately the emperor of all.
Unless you really like ice cream. Then it is like people drinking beer at a kid's birthday party (or a funeral, all the same). "Put 'em to bed, we're gonna barbeque and dance the night away," quoth the narrator.

| Posted on 2013-11-03 | by a guest

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Steven is very much a poet of ideas.The first part of the poem provides a picture of sexual implications and incurs our sense of sensitivity with the images of \'roller of big cigar\' ,\'concupiscent curd\',\'wenches dawdle\' contrasting with the last part of the poem.

| Posted on 2012-08-19 | by a guest

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I believe this poem shows the materialistic nature of the time is was written (the roaring 20\'s). In the first stanza we see that everyone is only concerned with fun. They value nothing but meaningless things, therefore the only thing ruling them (emperor) is frivolous (ice cream). The second stanza is reminiscent of a funeral. \"...the dresser of deal,/Lacking the three glass knobs,\" a dresser without drawers, is a coffin. She valued the sheet in which she embroidered because it was pretty and valuable. In the end, her \"dumb\" materialism will be the death of her and she will have nothing to show of her life. \"Let the lamp affix its beam,\" to show her in death that she didn\'t value the important things in life.

| Posted on 2011-03-24 | by a guest

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life is an ice-cream, enjoy it before it melts. the muscular man is the symbol of physicality and wanna celebrate sexuality.

| Posted on 2011-03-07 | by a guest

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My take on this is that there is no God. Ice cream something that we all crave, something that can be sweet and good, in fact much like life is short and sweet. The imiagery is definetly persistant with a funeral setting. Let the boys bring flowers, and obituaries in \"newspapers\". Let be be final of seem the only emporer is the emporer of ice cream. When dead we don\'t see a God is what he is saying. how cold and dumb let the lamp affix it\'s beam. the only thing that is there is a light from a lamp possbily linked to a symbol of light from heaven. Heaven is not there yet the light affixed upon her face is and the only emporer is the emporer of icecream. Life and things that we crave for enjoyment.

| Posted on 2010-11-08 | by a guest

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Where are the emperors? Gone. All dead: Ming, Caesar, Hirohito. Dead too are the metaphorical emperors: world peace, man's humanity to man, religion. Sorry to report, the only emperor left is ice cream, the immediate and ultimately meaningless pleasures of human sexuality, the only remaining thing we all worship and obey. The man with the big cigar (Mr. Clinton?) whips his concupiscent curds (need I explain?) for wenches "used" by him, dead now and ever dead, their feet "horny" from streetwalking for horny Johns, while naive boys with flowers have yet to understand the instinctual ground of all human relations. Let's face the ultimate disturbing fact ("Let be be finale of seem"): Sex is truth, truth sex, - that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

| Posted on 2010-06-10 | by a guest

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Ice cream is a blatant symbol in this peom. It is sweet and we buy it at fun times for something nice to munch, but it doesn't take us long to devour that cone before it's completely gone. Since concupiscent means a strong desire, especially sexual desire; lust, one can determine this poem involves sex of a sort, and since it notes the dresser is made of deal, which is extremely cheap wood, and connotates poverty, it could be that this house is a whore-house (sex with a whore is fun for a moment and sweet at the time, but then you pay for it and it's done, like ice cream - good for the few minutes it lasts and then over). It notes pulling a sheet over a woman whose feet stick out, much the way they do for people who've died, especially when they are found and tagged, so one can determine that a death has occured also. People who roll big cigars could be a reference to many things, but with these two facts taken into account, it seems it must be a reference to a pimp or something of the like, so combined with the death, it can be determined that perhaps she tried to leave, which obviously didn't work. It would then make sense to say "Let be be the finale of seem." - let be the end of this illusion (the house would have to seem to be an ordinary house but because of this death the pimp would not be able to cover the fact that it was a harlotry so the rest of the buisness would have to move). The lines about flowers and wenches in their clothes are them letting the girl's customers bring flowers to her death and letting the harlots take the day off because of it and presumably the move they will have to endure. *It says "Let the wenches dawdle in such dress as they are used to wear." and not what would be correct grammmatically 'Let the wenches dawdle in such dress(es) as they are used to wearing.' This should draw a reader's attention to the discrepancy in grammar and the only way that it makes sense is if the wenches (who by the way are not 'girls' as someone would call them to be respectful - wenches were servant / slave girls) were used while wearing those clothes, implying that these women not only have specific clothes for one thing only but that these women are used for one purpose only too.

| Posted on 2010-04-09 | by a guest

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Good poem, it is a reference to the Antichrist & how ice cream will cause Americans to be overweight.

| Posted on 2010-03-29 | by a guest

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This poem's title carries the two antithetical images, where ice refers to cold, a symbol of death and cream is the product of milk referring to life. Thats why everybody is the emperor of icecream which can melt at anytime and at anywhere.

| Posted on 2010-03-07 | by a guest

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life is to live, and the best moments are those with happiness, be gratefull of what the deceased person had given to you and enjoy the rest of your life giving to others.

| Posted on 2010-01-27 | by a guest

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Poem seems to restrain any attempt to explore feelings and concerns about the death of this mystery woman by preoccupying the crowd (and the reader) with performing through the ritual of the funeral, so that we all are rushed through, moment to moment, too busy with letting "BE" become "seem" and mindless of our presence other than for the sake of satisfying our own desires for what we get out of the situation. In a way, it mocks us for losing sight of what is important as we similarly carousel through the parade of life.

| Posted on 2010-01-15 | by a guest

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I enjoyed reading this poem and figuring out its metaphors and alliterations. I like that the poem seems like it's set in past, and i like the author's use of metaphors and alliterations to describe the setting and story.

| Posted on 2009-09-09 | by a guest

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This poem was very interesting to me. I liked how they started with painting a picture in your head. The picture I thought of was a big muscular man in the 50's smoking a cigar thinking he's all cool.

| Posted on 2009-09-07 | by a guest

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Although this poem does seem to have a bright warm-hearted feel to it at first, there are many examples that say otherwise. It speaks of a wench who is a servant girl, a dumb woman and knobs missing from the dresser. Though it also has many uplifting words in it such as he lamp which could represent light or something bright. There is also an emperor of ice cream which seems to keep the poem from becoming too serious.

| Posted on 2009-09-01 | by a guest

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There is nothing lighthearted about this poem. The first stanza describes a brothel owned by a large, controlling man, the emperor. Ice cream is a symbol for sex or debauchery. While sweet in certain circumstances, it can turn sour, which the image of the word 'curds' brings to mind. The second stanza describes the dead body of a wench who has lived and died under the strong arm of the emperor and who now lies under the very sheet that she embroidered with fantails-pigeons-the only beautiful thing she could find in her squallid room. "Let be be finale of seem." See things for the way they are. Prostitution is depressing, as is this poem.

| Posted on 2009-08-31 | by a guest

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Get the big guy over here to churn the ice cream! The girls will be flirts and the boys will give them flowers. Let things be what they are - what matters most is Ice Cream. (Celebration during life)
Get the lace hankercheif from the shabby dresser to cover her face; If her feet stick out you will see just how cold and silent she is. Light shine where it may, what matters most is Ice Cream. (Celebration of the life that has ended)

| Posted on 2009-06-01 | by a guest

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I disagree with the first two. This poem is of a carnival-esque atmosphere. In older days, they would store bodies in freezers until the funeral ceremony- often times the same places that ice cream was held. It also refers to deaths skin complexion. The body would then be taken to their house, where family and friends would look at it, and eat food, and socialize in an attempt to cheer themselves up. The flowers are funeral flowers, and the point is simply in that. The scene of death is accompanied by a 'carnival'.

| Posted on 2009-05-07 | by a guest

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The poem actually has a tone of indifference. The first 8 lines are about the muscular cigar men flirting with the wenches (women). The men bring them flowers in order to impress the women. The last 8 lines are about a dead woman at her funeral. The dresser of deal is the coffin and she is cold and dumb from death. The poem has a tone of indifference because the people from the first 8 lines, who are at the funeral, do not care that there is a funeral. They are doing things like flirting at a funeral that shows the tone of indifference in the poem.

| Posted on 2009-01-15 | by a guest

.: anaylsis :.

The first stanza in this poem is about life. The speaker compares the empress with ice cream because soon everything will melt away like ice cream. The seecond stanza conveys that lighter reality shines on death, that is when you see whats real or whats not. Wallace uses Alliteration in line 3, metaphor line 7 and repitition. The theme of this poem is don't rely on reality because it might be an illusion.

| Posted on 2006-08-07 | by Approved Guest

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