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Featured Poem: Solitude by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Written by Emma Walsh, 11th July 2016
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 This week's Featured Poem comes from Ella Wheeler Wilcox, a popular poet in her own lifetime, Solitude is her most renowned work.

Born in Wisconsin in 1850, Ella Wheeler Wilcox began writing poetry at an early age and was well known as a poet in her own state by the time she graduated high school.

Best known for her poem Solitude, Wilcox penned the infamous opening lines 'Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone' after consoling a grieving woman on a train. The poem was first published in The New York Sun in February 1883, earning Wilcox $5 and was collected in the book Poems of Passion later that year.

Wilcox was thought a popular poet rather than a literary one, her poems being plainly written in rhyming verse and expressing sentiments of cheer and optimism. The literary society of the time did not much credit Wheeler's work but fourteen of her poems were selected for the 1936 Best Loved Poems of the American People anthology and two featured in the 1992 Best Remembered Poems anthology.

Solitude

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.
Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all,—
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life’s gall.
Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.

 

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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