Who doesn’t know the following lines?
“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 it’s own.”
They come from the poem “Solitude” by the American journalist, essayist, and poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919). Born in Johnstown, Wisconsin, by the time she graduated from high school her poetry was already being published. Written in plain, rhyming verse, it became very popular. Her works include Poems of Passion (1883), a collection of love poems – at first rejected by a publisher on the grounds that it was immoral – went on to sell 60,000 copies in two years. She also published A Woman of the World (1904), Poems of Peace (1906), Poems of Experience (1910), and Poems (1919), all “laced with platitudes and easy profundities”.
Wilcox also wrote fiction, including Mal Moulée (1885), A Double Life (1890), Sweet Danger (1892), and A Woman of the World (1904) and two autobiographies, The Story of a Literary Career (1905) and The Worlds and I (1918).
Wilcox avidly pursued her interest in spiritualism and, at the instigation of her deceased husband (she said), in 1918 undertook a lecture and poetry-reading tour of Allied army camps in France. Her poem “The Year” dates from 1910:
“What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That’s not been said a thousand times?
The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.
We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.
We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.
We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.
We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that’s the burden of the year.”