Poems > USA > Wilcox
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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.
...for the enjoyment
and passion of words and verse. Page posted: February 21, 2019
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
née Ella Wheeler
Born: November 5, 1850,
Johnstown Center, Rock county, Wisconsin, US
Died: October 30, 1919, at 68.
Short Beach, Branford, Connecticut, US
She was the youngest of four siblings. Her family had to soon move to Madison
She 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.
Wheeler’s first book, a collection of temperance verses, appeared in 1872 as Drops of Water. Shells, a collection of religious and moral poems, followed in 1873 and Maurine, a highly sentimental verse narrative, in 1876. The rejection of her next book, a collection of love poems, by a Chicago publisher on grounds that it was immoral helped ensure its success when it was issued by another publisher in 1883 as Poems of Passion, a titillating title that was as racy as any of the contents. The sale of 60,000 copies in two years firmly established Wheeler’s reputation.
In 1884 she married Robert M. Wilcox, a businessman. While making herself the centre of a literary coterie, Wilcox continued to pour out verses laced with platitudes and easy profundities. They were collected in such volumes as Men, Women, and Emotions (1893), Poems of Pleasure (1888), Poems of Sentiment (1906), Gems (1912), and World Voices (1918).
Wilcox also wrote much fiction, including Mal Moulée (1885), A Double Life (1890), Sweet Danger (1892), and A Woman of the World (1904); two autobiographies, The Story of a Literary Career (1905) and The Worlds and I (1918); and columns of prose and poetry for various newspapers and articles and essays for Cosmopolitan and other magazines.
After her husband’s death in 1916, Wilcox made her long-standing interest in spiritualism the subject of a series of columns as she sought—successfully, she claimed—to contact his spirit. At her husband’s direction (she said), Wilcox undertook a lecture and poetry-reading tour of Allied army camps in France in 1918.