“Solitude”-A poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

English: Portrait of Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Fron...

English: Portrait of Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Frontispiece from her book of poems “Three Women” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

A delightful little poem that does not leave you in confusion about the poet’s theme. The imagery is simple on the face of it but has layers of meaning and interconnections, if only we try to make out a running thread behind them.
The sad old earth does not have much mirth and has trouble having enough of it. The sadness refers to the essential tragedy of the human condition, an inherent pathos in all that we do and say.It has necessarily to borrow some of it from whoever has excess of it. But we can only laugh together , whenever there is something to celebrate but not all the time when we have to enact our own little private tragedies. So if you have some cause for celebration ,do laugh but together with others so that the sum total of the earth’s happiness will increase or the negative balance of its happiness will decrease(i.e. the sad old earth will be a little less sad)
Weep and you weep alone because there is no point in burdening the sad earth with more sadness. Even nature refuses to sympathize with your suffering because you shall suffer alone and your sighs are lost in the air.But if you sing, the hills will reverberate with your music. On a bright morning if you sing to the hills they will echo to your sound in joy but if you cry they shrink away from your tears.
 It is not nature alone that shrinks away from your sadness but your  fellow human beings who prefer to sing and dance with you in your happy moments but leave you alone in your grief.”Succeed and give” and it helps you live but no man can help you die.
I love the imagery of the last four lines, also exquisite in their music.
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.
Beautiful words these. There is room for everyone in the lordly train(a  royal pageant or a procession)  in the halls of pleasure ,where the celebration is done in big groups,by singing and clapping.We sing and dance together the common joys of life, spreading happiness around. But our own personal sadness must be gone through alone.Our personal unhappiness cannot be shared and we have to file on through the narrow aisles of pain. A separation or a death is an intensely personal experience that has to be gone through alone, just like the others who are ahead of us in the line and those who are waiting behind us.
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