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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.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) was born in Johnstown, Wisconsin and her poetry was being published by the time she graduated from high school. Her works include Poems of Passion (1883), A Woman of the World (1904), Poems of Peace (1906), Poems of Experience (1910), and Poems (1919). Although her verse was sometimes ridiculed by modernist critics, her plain rhyming style was very popular in its time, and some of her aphorisms, such as “Laugh, and the world laughs with you/ Weep, and you weep alone,” and “To sin by silence, when they should protest, makes cowards of men” have found a permanent place in the American language.