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Ella Wheeler Wilcox

by Lois Flesche

 

Ella Wheeler Wilcox, who lived in Short Beach from 1891 until her death in 1919, was considered the “Poetess of Passion” and was among the most famous of Branford’s residents.

            Her first book, Drops of Water, was published in 1872, when she was 22 years old, but her most famous book,  Poems of Passion, published in 1883, brought her fame throughout  the United States and Europe. She is perhaps best remembered for her poem Solitude, which begins: Laugh, and the world laughs with you/ Weep, and you weep alone.”

            A highlight of her career came in 1901 when she was selected by W. R. Hearst, editor of N.Y. American newspaper, to write a poet’s impression of a royal funeral upon the death of Queen Victoria.

            Born in 1850 in Wisconsin, Ella Wheeler married Robert Wilcox of Meridan, Connecticut in 1884. The couple lived for a time in New York City but in 1891 came for a visit to Short Beach, fell in love with the area and made it their year around house. It became the site for many social gatherings that brought together literary and artistic figures of the day.

            Ella Wilcox termed her Short Beach home her “Earthly Eden” and wrote a poem, Granite Bay, dedicated to the area.

 

               Solitude

 

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.

 

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