As a child, Ella Wheeler was determined to escape the poverty of her rural Wisconsin childhood by writing. She began submitting poetry and prose to magazines at the age of fourteen. A collection of her love poems entitled Poems of Passion brought her notoriety, for a Chicago publisher refused to publish it on moral grounds and, in the ensuing publicity, the poet found herself famous. She has been called a "phenomenon of democracy." In the 1890s, she was devoted to Hindu mysticism and allegedly on instructions of her dead husband's spirit, reached through mystical practice, she toured Allied Army camps in France during the war, reading her poetry to soldiers. She suffered a nervous breakdown in 1919 and died very soon after of cancer.
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone,
For 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 nectar'd 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.