I think Wallace StevensŐs poems are so profound that lots of them are difficult to understand in the first or even the third reading. The Emperor of Ice-Cream is a terrific example. It looks like a very cute poem from seeing its title in the beginning, but later I find that it takes a lot more time for me to just figure out the meaning of this absolutely confusing title. It is not as easy as I imagined, but it actually touches me and gives me some reflection upon my life.
The funeral background astonished me a great deal. It is very sarcastic to use this death scene to be a party-like celebration of vitality and lustful wonderful life. But, what a contrast! Yes, Ňdeath is the mother of beauty. It is not the first time for me to hear things like that, but Stevens provided this literal sentence of a daring image for us to look deep into ourselves and the essence of our life.
It seems cruel that those who attend this womanŐs funeral are ironically joyful and also casual in whether their dress or attitude. We donŐt have any black color, neither any mourning moment here. The respect toward the dead and life itself seems to diminish down to the minimal standard, and their happiness is shocking. However, they function to reveal a kind of open-minded philosophy of life for us.
The second last line of the first stanza, ŇLet be be finale of seem is significant in this poem. It suggests that what is ended here is only a vision of the death of a superficial appealing. Life is not so heavy, and is even lighter than a song or a play. After the curtain draws down, all we have to do is to clap our hands for the great performance. Because all is so weight less, nothing needs to be worried about. Therefore, we gain good reasons to enjoy our earthly days. Both life and death are only the forms of our existences, so we donŐt have to feel sorry for the dead. Instead, we party for the womanŐs death and for our life at the same time. It is a way not to put these two extremes into conflict, and a more generous way to see through life. In this aspect, we all deserve a great life before the day we die. Moreover, it is the death that makes our every second so precious and unique.
On the other hand, I also find that the line, ŇThe only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream is ambiguous but also interesting. I think that ice-cream refers to our short life in the world. It will be gone soon, but it is sweet and wonderful. At first, I thought this terminal power of life was, of course, the death, which is the opposite of it. The second stanzaŐs description of the image of this dead woman could support this point as well. But I just couldnŐt get rid of the cheerful image of ice-cream ; therefore, I came to think in the other way. The emperor of our life is actually ourselves. It is us who could decide how to spend our own days, but no others. Furthermore, the repetition of this line is an important hint. Like a kind of propaganda or a warning, it lets us know what death is like and then go back to encourage us to cherish all the enjoyable time.
I am quite amazed at this poem for it could be so serious and so delightful simultaneously to talk about this universal question of ours. Eat your ice-cream when it is still chill and nice! ItŐs almost like a religious thought hided in this melting sweet thing. After reading this poem of StevensŐs, I think I have already had a big bite of life!