The poem “Solitude” was written in 1983 by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, an American Author and poet (1850-1919). It was her most enduring work. The inspiration for the poem came as she was traveling to attend the Governor’s inaugural ball in Madison, Wisconsin. On her way to the celebration, there was a young woman dressed in black sitting across the aisle from her. The woman was crying. Miss Wheeler sat next to her and sought to comfort her for the rest of the journey. When they arrived, the poet was so depressed that she could barely attend the scheduled festivities. As she looked at her own radiant face in the mirror, she suddenly recalled the sorrowful widow. It was at that moment that she wrote the opening lines of “Solitude“:
BY ELLA WHEELER WILCOXLaugh, 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 pleasureFor a large and lordly train,But one by one we must all file onThrough the narrow aisles of pain.