Solitude - Analysis

SOLITUDE 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 long and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.


This poem touches me deeply as it explores the theme of the power of solitude and the pain of loneliness. 

The poet uses parallel structure throughout the poem as each line is grouped into a pair, with a compare and contrast of contrasting emotions and the result or consequence they bring. 

There is a huge difference in solitude and loneliness, and I find that most people are incapable of differentiating the two. The two different lines in each pair bring on the contrast between solitude (first line) and loneliness (second line). 

There is extensive use of literary devices:

- "the sad old earth must borrow its mirth" / but has enough trouble of its own PERSONIFICATION

- "sigh, and the hills will answer" PERSONIFICATION

- "but one by one we must all file on through the narrow aisles of pain" PERSONIFICATION

There is quite a bit of personification throughout the poem, personifying Earth as a person who accompanies you and shares your pain, and describing pain as something that we all must go through ("through the narrow aisles"). 

Lastly, Earth being mentioned in the first lines of each pair, emphasizes the feeling of wholeness and support when you are in solitude - almost like the whole earth is laughing with you and supporting you. But when you weep in loneliness, "you weep alone".