Saffron Ice-Cream

This is yet another part of my week-long tribute to the birthday of Wallace Stevens.  This short poem by British poet, Martin Bell (1918-1978) picks up on the gourmet/gourmand interests of Stevens.  It also reflects the variety of Stevens’s diction from the “Doggone” to the “rococo” and the dissonance between the praise and the bray.  “The Emperor of Ice-Cream” is certainly invoked.   It’s a nifty  six-line tribute to two men who toiled to illuminate the unconscious, the active imagination, and the many links between art and the human mind.

Martin Bell:


Wallace Stevens  Welcomes Doctor Jung into Heaven

‘Doggone, they’ve let you in at last, Doc! Gee,
I’m real glad .’ And indicated angels puffing horns
Rococo with praise and bray and bray,
And proffered to him saffron ice cream cones
Topped up with glacé cherries and chopped cashew nuts.
‘Ach! Horn of Plenty,’ the good Doctor said.saffronicecream


Notes on the day:  I’m currently listening to Haydn’s String Quartet Opus 76, number 5.  What harmonic playfulness!  He mixes his notes to achieve the “cantabile e mesto” attribution he gave it:  “singing and sad”.   I think 2016 can fairly be called the year of the string quartet for me.  I have had operatic years, symphonic years, years of concerti and ballet.  Years of all cello all the time and years of Maria Callas and Edward Elgar.


Reading:  I am currently reading White Trash:  The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by historian Nancy Isenberg.  I am only one generation away from “white trash” so I find the book particularly intriguing.  I am also reveling in the opposition:  The Rector of Justin by Louis Auchincloss, the saga of the headmaster of a prestigious New England boarding school.

Author: Gubbinal

Bookish, tea-drinking cat-lady who loves great poetry and music and is in the midst of dying

3 thoughts on “Saffron Ice-Cream”

  1. Listened to the first part of the Hayden quartet (5 min)…loved the ‘singing and sad’….you could really hear the voices.
    Poem: I’ll have to read this a couple more times….
    Wallace issues: very unhappy marriage.
    He was a genius living with an uneducated, limited, suspicious and provincial person.
    White Trash: looks very interesting… I read some comments about it an one hit me right between the eyes. I’m following the election (I live in The Netherlands, born and bred East coast in Connecticut). People ask me here why does US even consider Trump as a candidate?
    The class situation could explain alot: People who live on the coasts refer disdainfully to those who live in flyover land.
    They ignore them. Deport their jobs.
    And then wonder why they’ll support any old fool presidential candidate who promises to recognize their grievances.
    That just about sums it up!


    1. Thank you for your response, N@ncy. I, too, am from Connecticut but ended up in flyover country.
      Perhaps Stevens married for pulchritude: his wife was reputedly the model for the old US liberty dime. His letters almost never refer to her and refer to their daughter but sparingly.
      Trump is horrifying. I think that people worry about “fairness” and the status quo has not been “fair” for decades. They believe or hope that Trump will do something special for them. I read “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis (written 80 years ago) and it clearly prefigures a Trumpian figure winning the election and creating a gulag society. It CAN happen here.


      1. Love your response “flyover land’…I went in the other direction “flyover ocean’. I will have to look at Lewis’s book. I did order White Trash…can’t wait to start reading it!


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