Feb. 17, 2005


by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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Poem: "Solitude" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850—1919).


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.
For 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.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of novelist Chaim Potok, born in the Bronx, New York City (1929). When he told his mother he wanted to become a writer, she responded, "You want to write stories? That's very nice. You be a brain surgeon, and on the side you write stories."

It's the birthday of the Australian journalist and poet Andrew Barton Paterson (1864). He was a World War I correspondent and the author of several books of light verse, including The Animals Noah Forgot (1933). He's best known for "Waltzing Matilda," adapted from a traditional verse, which became Australia's national song.

It's the birthday of Irish-American editor and publisher S. S. McClure, born in County Antrim, Ireland (1857). He organized the first syndicated newspaper in the United States, the 'McClure Syndicate' (1884), and later founded McClure's magazine (1893), the most controversial muckraking journal of its time.

It's the birthday of entrepreneur Montgomery Ward, born in Chatham, New Jersey (1844), who came up with the mail-order system of merchandising. As a young man he sold goods to farmers who grumbled about the mark-up costs. This experience prompted his idea of ordering goods direct, by mail: customers could buy lower-cost items direct from the warehouse through catalogue orders they sent in from home. He issued his first catalogue in 1872-a single sheet of paper offering 150 items.

It's the birthday of René Laennec, born in Quimper, near Brittany (1781). He's called the "father of thoracic medicine" for having invented the stethoscope.

It's the birthday of Thomas Malthus, born in The Rookery, near Dorking, England (1766), author of the Essay on Principle of Population. Malthus was pessimistic about the future because of the natural tendency of the population to increase faster than the means of subsistence.

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