Thursday, December 28, 2006

Popular Solitude

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.

While assembling the Christmas thoughts that stayed with me for one reason or another over the years (such as the rarity of a Calvin Coolidge quote), I recalled that Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote what is probably the first poem I voluntarily chose to learn by heart, and one of the few that I can still recite in it's entirety, Solitude.

I discovered this fact tonight only because I unexpectedly began reciting it aloud during the long drive home from the hospital, and checked my memory against the text when I got home. I hadn't planned on this recital - it just crept out of some dim corner of my distant memory and planted itself firmly, unavoidably, in the forefront of my mind's eye, an aspect of my mind that I readily admit to engaging regularly while driving alone.

Now, I realize that Wilcox is not considered a literary poet but a popular one, and is thus suspect. Her poetry has been described as "plain," yet what better way is there to highlight simple truths?

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