Ella Wheeler Wilcox

About the Author

Ella Wheeler Wilcox was an American and her works include Poems of Passion, A Woman of the Word, Poems of Peace, and others. She was born in Johnstown, Wisconsin and grew up with a passion for writing. By the time she graduated high school, she was already having some her work published. She was enrolled in Madison University, but dropped out to pursue her passion for writing. She had a slow start to her career, but eventually it picked up and she was getting recognized for her poetry. Wilcox was born in the year 1850 and died in 1919 of cancer.
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Origin of the Poem

The origin of the poem starts will Ella Wheeler Wilcox attending the Governor's ball in Madison, Wisconsin. She encountered a woman crying while she was on the train to the ball. Wilcox spent the entire train ride comforting the woman. When she arrived at the ball, Wilcox was so distressed she could barely attend the festivities. When she looked in the mirror, all she could see was the grieving woman. Thus, the poem was born.

Line 5

Sing, and the hills will answer;/Sigh, it is lost on the air;

This line of the poem exemplifies the idea that even the earth turns away from pain and grief. Also, it strengthens the idea that a person is truly alone when faced with grief, not even the world would help. Both of these ideas help determine that the theme of the poem is about grief and isolationism.


Two themes jump out clearly from this poem. One is that when a person experiences pain and grief in life they go through it alone. No one is going to help a person through their pain because everyone has enough of their own trouble to go through. Another theme is that the world cannot handle suffering, so it shuns those who face grief. Both themes have a strong correlation with isolationism.

Meaning of the Poem

The poem can mean two different things depending on how someone looks at it. In a negative and cynical way, the poem tells its readers that through the horrible pain experienced in life, no one will help you through the pain. In a more positive light, the poem is warning its readers to not be consumed by anguish and grief. People are attracted to happiness, therefore refrain from always being sad and life will be filled with happiness and companionship.
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