Solitude By Ella Wheeler Wilcox summary

Ella Wheeler Wilcox was an American author and poet. She is well known through her works that are full of social criticism, in her poems she expresses sentiments of cheer and optimism in plainly written, rhyming verse. Her popular works include Poems of Passion (1883) and Solitude (1883).


The poem begins with the simple line: “Laugh and the whole world laughs with you/Weep and you weep alone”. From here onward the poem follows the idea that the world is after pleasure and joy and it does not want to listen to sad stories. Since the world is filled with so much misery, sorrow and personal worries, it has no mirth of its own.

In the following stanza, the poet says that men will seek us if we rejoice but they will turn us down if we grieve or feel sorrow. A happy man will have many friends but a man who is not happy and hopeless will not have any friends at all. Ours is a world that goes after happiness, not after the misery. In simple words, the poet repeats the idea that happiness will attract more happiness and sorrow will take us away from enjoying happy moments. Finally, it will make us lonely where we will have to enjoy our own company. A complaining man or sad person will be forced to live his life in loneliness. There will not be anyone to share his sorrow. She clarifies this idea by saying that many will come to drink from our nectared wine while no one will show his willingness to share the bitter taste of our life.

Toward the end of the poem, she magnifies the idea of solitude by saying that we all go alone to face death which is the saddest thing that can happen to a person. The poem asks us to be positive and attract the good company. Thus it has an optimistic tone (hopeful tone). It demands us that we stop being critical and negative which will only make us lonely. Many poetic devices are cleverly used by the poet: nectared wine-gustatory image, aisles of pain-tactile image, feast and your halls are crowded-visual image, sing and the hills will answer-auditory image etc are some of them. The poet has also used the technique of internal rhyming. The pairs: earth/mirth, bound/sound, measure/pleasure, decline/pain etc are examples of that.

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Question and Answers

Q. Who do the lines “For sad old earth must borrow its mirth/ But has troubles enough of its own” refer to? What do they mean?
Ans. The particular lines refer to the short-lived joy of life and its long woes and troubles. The meaning is simple. We only borrow pleasures from worldly things for limited moments but have to bear the woes and troubles for a longer time.

Q. What happens when we sing happily or tell others about our joy?
Ans. We sing and hills answers or echo our song.

Q. How does this poem relate to the Golden Rule?
Ans. The poem relates to the Golden Rule by explaining that generosity to others will bring happiness and a good life to you.

Q. How is this text structured?

Ans. The author structures the poem by stanzas. Each stanza begins with two lines that compares and contrasts positive and negative emotions. The next two lines provide a commentary. The second half of each stanza then repeats this pattern.

Q. Does the same thing happen when we tell our problems to others?
Ans. No, if we tell people about our grief, they listen to and turn their backs upon us.

Q. According to the poem, are the people of this world eager to share another’s problems and stay back to help out?
Ans. No, they want full measures of all your pleasure but they do not need your woes.

Q. Do you think the statement ” A happy person has many friends while a sad one has none” is true according to the poem? Do you think it is true in life? Why? Why not?
Ans. The poem says ” Be glad, and your friends are many; be sad and you lose them all.”

Yes, this statement is true, not only in the poem but in actual life also. In the real-life, our friends stick to us as soon as our purse is full but when we fall on evil days they desert us.

Q. How do we make our way through difficulties?
Ans. The poem in this connection says:” But one by one we must all file on through the narrow aisles of pain”. That is to say that in difficulties we have to suffer alone. There is none to share our sorrow. ” Weep and you weep alone” is the correct saying. Prosperity brings friends but adversity separates them from us.

Q. Does the poem give a very encouraging picture of the nature of humans in general? Why?
Ans. One can say that the picture of human life as drawn in this poem in almost real. It may not be encouraging as there is little hope. But sorrows and sufferings are a reality in life. Pleasures are illusory. This is everyone’s realization. But people forget realities.

Q. What type of poem is solitude?

Ans ‘Solitude’ by Ella Wheeler Wilcox is a three-stanza poem that is separated into sets of eight lines or octaves. Each of these octaves follows a consistent rhyme scheme of ABCBDEFE.

Q. How does the poem Solitude relate to the Golden Rule?

Ans. How does the poem Solitude relate to the Golden Rule? The sonnet is based on a progression of differentiating conditions: Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep and you weep alone. So the poem identifies with the Golden Rule by disclosing that liberality to others will carry satisfaction and a decent life to you.

Q. What is the theme of Solitude by Ella Wheeler Wilcox?
Ans. The poem’s theme is a dramatization of the tension between a positive and a negative attitude: “For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth, / But has trouble enough of its own.” The poem essentially avers that while a negative attitude repulses others, the positive attracts them.

Images Used in the poem

  • Joyful sound
  • Sad old earth
  • Voicing care
  • Full measure
  • Nectared wine
  • Life’s gall
  • Halls of pleasure
  • Lordly train
  • Narrow aisles of pain

Rhyming words in the poem

  • Woe –go
  • All — gall
  • Care — air
  • Train — pain
  • Die — by

Opposites in the poem

  • Sing and sigh
  • Laugh and weep
  • Mirth and trouble
  • Joyful sound and voicing care
  • Rejoice and grieve
  • Pleasure and woe
  • Glad and sad
  • Nectared wine and life’s gall
  • Feast and fast
  • Succeed and die
  • Halls of pleasure and aisles of pain

8. Do you agree with the ideas illustrated in the poem? Give reasons.
Ans. I do agree with all the truth expressed in the poem because all wise people have their appreciation of these truthful sayings. I have nothing to say otherwise.

9. What is ‘voicing care’? Whose voice is being referred to?
Ans. ‘Voicing care’ means fears and anxieties for the future. Here the voice of ” sorrowful person is referred to”.

Q. What is the poem mostly about?
Ans. Laughter is the answer to a happy life.
a. What you put out, the world returns to you.

c. Positive actions result in positive returns.

d. Negative actions result in negative returns.

Q. What do you think this poem seems to be saying about the Golden Rule?
Ans. This line means that success and giving to others in life will help you live a good life.

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If you share your happiness and generosity with others, you will live a life surrounded by good company.

Q. What do the first two stanzas tell us about what the narrator has learned about life?
Ans. In stanza 1, the author writes about
laughing and weeping, then singing and sighing. She writes that when you laugh and sing, you have the company of others, but when you weep and sigh, you are left alone.

She also writes that the earth is sad and needs to borrow happiness. It has enough trouble of its own, so it doesn’t offer help when there is sadness.

The narrator realizes that happiness and joy attract the company of others, but sadness seems to push people away.

In the second stanza, the author writes about how rejoicing and being glad brings friends to you, but grieving and sadness push people away.

The narrator realizes that when times are good, people will be around, but when times are bad, people disappear and you go through that tough time alone.

Q. In the last stanza of the poem, the poet sums up what she has learned about living, dying, and the support of others. How does the poet structure this poem so that the last the stanza reveals these lessons? Use the organizer below to explain your answer.
Ans. In Stanzas 1 and 2, the poet compares and contrasts positive and negative emotions and behaviours and how those behaviours either attract people or push people away. She writes that the positive behaviours, like singing, laughing, and rejoicing, draw the company of others. On the other hand, negative behaviours, like weeping, sighing, grieving, and sadness, push people away and leave you alone to suffer.

By the last stanza of the poem, the author makes one final comparison of being surrounded by people in good times and being alone in bad times. The author ends with summarizing the main point that during pleasurable times there’s room for many friends, but we must go through pain alone.

Q. How does the structure affect the meaning?
Ans. The meaning of this poem is affected by the structure because the author juxtaposes positive and negative behaviours and how those behaviours come back to you in positive and negative ways. The author is able to show the Golden Rule by these comparisons.

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