Friday, 9 January 2015

"Solitude" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850 - 1919) - American

"Solitude" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox - one of the poets on my ever-growing List of Female Poets of the First World War. When she was in her late 60s, Ella travelled to the Western Front from America in 1917 to entertain the American Troops.  She read them her poems - some of which she composed specially once there - and lecturing them on the importance of 'moral hygiene' …

Travelling all that way and crossing the Atlantic and English Channel by boat in wartime, with the constant threat from enemy submarines and mines, would have been an achievement for a much younger woman.   

This poem, which was written long before the First World War, was one of my Father's favourites.  I feel it rings especially true today (9th January 2015) when the world is mourning the staff of the Paris-based satirical weekly magazine "Charlie Hebdo."

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.