Thursday Quote Du Jour #4 on Happiness and Sorrow

by Janie Jones

In an effort to improve and enhance my literary knowledge and skills I decided to take up my book of One Hundred Famous Poems.  It was given to me as a young person, and I’ve barely read more than a handful of the poems within.  Now I find them a bit more interesting.  I may move on to Shakespeare’s Sonnets later.  Maybe.  Okay, probably not, but it sounds good.

In general I’ve never been much a of a fan of poetry, but I do have a few favorites.  This is one of them, and it frequently suits my frame of mind.  I had to memorize it and recite it in grade school so the lines are easy to recall and fondly familiar.  It’s a bit longish for a blog post quote, but it’s one of my favorites so I hope you’ll humor me and give it a go.  I also wanted to post the whole poem because most people will recognize the first stanza while the rest is lost to common memory, but the whole poem is really marvelous and it all deserves to be remembered.

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 do not need your woe.

Be glad, and you 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, an the world goes by.

Succeed and give, and it helps you live,

But no man can help you die.

There is a 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

As a tween I intellectually understood the message of this poem, but reading it again this summer that meaning some how becomes more personal and intimate.  Perhaps I frequently feel so alone because I share too much of my sorrow.  But then, not sharing it is it’s own form of isolation.  Pasting a fake smile one’s face may be a temporary fix that will please others, but does not solve any problems or cure any woes and ultimately just makes one feel worse.  Perhaps this was a woman’s lot in past times.  But is it really any different today?

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