A poem to share and analyse today by Ella Wheeler Wilcox:
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 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 large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.
This poem resonates with us through our shared experiences and sobers us through its masterful usage of compare and contrast. It also reveals an intrinsic part of human nature– that of denial. We hate the sad and unpleasant and seek to avoid it at all costs. Even if it a loved one that is hurting, we would rather get it over with as soon as possible to move on to happier things. While it is something good to surround ourselves with positive things, the poem exudes a much more negative attitude towards this side of human nature. It shows a side of human selfishness, the very sign of mortality itself. After all, only one with earthly needs is able to deprive others of the same needs in order to satisfy himself.
It also shows how uncaring the world is by the line:
Sing, and the hills will answer; Sigh, it is lost on the air
It is not other humans that deny suffering, but also the earth. The earth, something that should give us all that we need, is not only unmovable but also impervious to human suffering.
This poem encourages you to sit down next to the abandoned, the neglected and the dejected. Listen to them. After all, whatever else you may have in common, everyone has the human experience and you may one day be in need of someone to talk to you while you’re down.
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