For dVerse Poets Pub ‘MeetingTheBar’ – Beautiful Solitude

Claudia Schoenfeld is hosting ‘MeetingTheBar’ this week over at the dVerse Poets Pub. The subject this week is Beautiful Solitude. Claudia extols the virtue of solitude and asks us to compose a poem about it.

I hope I’ll be forgiven (pretty please), but I’ve chosen to break the rules a bit, simply because there is a poem that I know and love called “Solitude”, which was written and first published 130 years ago by one of my favourite poets.

I have been a fan of Ella Wheeler Wilcox for some time. She is not that well known in the full scheme of things, but you will almost certainly recognise the opening lines of this poem, which in the pop music world, I guess, would be called a ‘hook line’. It is not a particularly happy poem, but it is full of truths, it is memorable, I love it and felt that, with Claudia’s important prompt, it could not be left without a mention.


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
(1850 to 1919)

My own commentary on Ella is here

About PoetJanstie

“Life is short and art long, the crisis fleeting, experience penniless and decision difficult” ~ Hippocrates. As a young man, John enjoyed being fit and sporting. It was then as much his recreational therapy as a cappella harmony singing, music, walking in the hills and writing is now. Playing Rugby Union for over twenty years, encouraged in the early days by a school that was run on the same lines as Gordonstoun, giving shape and discipline to a sometimes precarious early life. This fitness was enhanced by working part time jobs in farming, as a leather factory packer and security guard, but probably not helped, for a short time, by selling ice cream! His professional working life was spent as a Metallurgical Engineer, Marketing Manager, Export Sales Manager, Implementation Manager and Managing Director of his own company. Thirty five years spent, apparently in a creative desert, raising a family, pursuing a career and helping to pay the bills, probably enriched his experience, because his renaissance, on retirement, realised a hidden creative talent as a writer of prose and poetry. He also enjoys music, with a piano and a forty-nine year old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He sings bass in three a cappella harmony groups: as a founding member of a mixed voice chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices and a mixed barbershop quartet. He is also a member of one of the top barbershop choruses in the UK, Hallmark of Harmony (the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club), who, for the eighth time in 40 years, became UK Champions in 2019. He is also a would be (once upon a time or 'has been') photographer with drawers full of his own history, and an occasional, but lapsed 'film' maker. In his other life, he doubles as a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Family man. What he writes is sometimes autobiographical, often political, sometimes dark and frequently pins his colours to the mast of climate change and how humans are trashing the Earth. In 2013, he published an anthology of the poetry (including his own) of an international group of poets, who met on Twitter in 2011. He produced, edited and steered the product of this work, "Petrichor Rising", to publication by Aquillrelle. His sort of strapline sort of reads: “ iWrite iSing iDance iVolunteer ”
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17 Responses to For dVerse Poets Pub ‘MeetingTheBar’ – Beautiful Solitude

  1. kkkkaty says:

    I’m another who had not read the entire poem….a good one to re=read from time to time…thanks.


  2. Always interesting how words and poems can be become weaved into the fabric of everyday so you can’t imagine a time before they existed


  3. hedgewitch says:

    Some really good lines in there–thanks for posting this as I don’t believe I’ve ever read the whole thing before.


    • PoetJanstie says:

      That applies to many and I know I hadn’t read the whole poem before about three years ago. It is a true to say for a hit song, that it’s the ‘hook lines’ that become larger than the whole; just the same for a poem, particularly like this one, which has so many memorable lines.


  4. nephiriel says:

    wow i can’t believe this. i heard this before… and could never figure out who it was.

    “For the sad old earth must borrow it’s mirth,
    But has trouble enough of its own.”

    these lines never lost my mind.
    THANK YOU (capital letters intended) for posting it. you made my day.


    • PoetJanstie says:

      I’m so pleased, but I somehow knew there’d be several people, who knew parts of this poem, but not the whole (as indeed I didn’t until two or three years ago). Thanks for calling in.


  5. claudia says:

    i’m glad you linked this up…a wonderful poem with much truth in it and well worth breaking the rules..smiles


  6. Wow, how perfectly true all these words. Thanks for sharing!


  7. ManicDdaily says:

    Pretty poem – and interesting to read in full. It reminds me of a poem written for memorization – which it would lend itself too so well with the rhyme and careful meter and memorable sentiments. k.


  8. Laurie Kolp says:

    I have always loved this poem. Thank you.


  9. beckykilsby says:

    I’ve never read this in its entirety – interesting to think about this aspect of solitude. Thanks for posting.


  10. brian miller says:

    for that, you can def break the rules….i have read it before but i think she does hit the nail with this one and it is perfect for the prompt…yes we each find our way through those halls….and it is what brings us together often, but that runs a little contrary to her thoughts…in that moment though it def feels like we are alone….


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