Saturday, October 1, 2011

Classic Poetry - "Solitude" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

1850 -1919


Laugh, and the world laughs with you;

Weep, and you weep alone.

For the sad old earth must borrow it's 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 long and lordly train,

But one by one we must all file on

Through the narrow aisles of pain.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox was an American author and poet, best-known for her collection Poems of Passion, and her autobiography, The Worlds and I. A poet for the common man, Wilcox wrote optimistically in plainly written, rhyming verse. None of her work was included in The Oxford Book of American Verse, but thirteen of her poems appear in Best Loved Poems of the American People; and “Solitude” and “The Winds of Fate” are included in Best Remembered Poems.

Her work was popular in the New Thought Movement; and by 1915, 50,000 copies of her booklet, What I Know About New Thought had been distributed.

Here are some interesting Ella Wheeler Wilcox facts:

  • Her quote "Love lights more fires than hate extinguishes" is inscribed in the pavement of Jack Kerouac Alley in San Francisco, next to City Lights Bookstore.
  • The first stanza of her poem "The Man Worth While" is inscribed at Disney's Hollywood Studios, viewed by visitors in line for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
  • Oliver's Stone movie JFK starts with a quote from her: "To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men".
  • The first stanza of "The Man Worth While" is parodied in the movie Caddyshack.
  • The opening lines in her poem "Solitude" are recited in Park Chan-wook's film Oldboy.


  1. I always knew the movie Caddyshack had some redeeming quality within it. Back to line #1.

  2. Maybe I should know more of her poems than I do. Thanks for pointing her out.

  3. I think that this poem may have said everything that ever needed saying. Thus the varied and unique use of her work.

  4. Thanks, Kim, I always wondered where those opening lines came from........a lot of wisdom in this poem.

  5. What great truth so simply stated!

  6. this proves that emotions behind a poem are far stronger and deep than actually projected.. words are nothing if you read in a go.. fell it and live it..

  7. brilliant and refreshing piece.

    keep writing :)

    The PostMan

  8. I enjoyed reading this piece. So much wisdom in one poem :)

  9. This is beautiful! How clever and magical~ This reminds me of a song!


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