Wallace Stevens

Monday 4 August 2014

This week on the radio show I’ll be playing poetry written by Wallace Stevens. Stevens has been described as a modernist poet. Detractors have said his work can, at times, be unnecessarily complex and inaccessible. Others have described him as a master stylist and a philosopher of aesthetics.

Personally, I think Stevens has left a legacy that we’re going to continue enjoying.

Back in May I discussed W H Auden’s poem Death’s Echo which I compared to Herrick’s To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time. I could equally have mentioned The Emperor of Ice-Cream by Wallace Stevens as another work that advocates the carpe diem mindset. After all, do we care about any emperor other than the emperor of ice-cream?

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. 

Wallace Stevens

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