It’s not often that a new poet breaks into my life but I have just discovered the works of E.W Wilcox. Who? You might ask. Ella Wheeler Wilcox (November 5, 1850 – October 30, 1919) and we are not far off the centenary of her death. She was not a great poet but an amiable one perfectly as capable as Kipling at jerking a tear out of us. I mean look at this – the last two lines could very well have been by Kipling.
It is easy enough to be pleasant,
When life flows by like a song,
But the man worth while is one who will smile,
When everything goes dead wrong.
Of course Kipling is generally derided as a poet and is seen more as a versifier. He is very likely to have been aware of E.W Wilcox and I would argue that these last two lines might have prompted Kipling’s great poem: If, Compare this with these random lines from that poem
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Then you will be a man, my son!
And certainly Wilcox is not worse than this (also by Kipling):
Cities and Thrones and Powers
Stand in Time’s eye,
Almost as long as flowers,
Which daily die:
And Wilcox has that rare distinction – shared with Shakespeare – of having lines from her poems becoming part of the weft and warp of the fabric of our language
Her most famous lines open her poem “Solitude”:
Laugh and the world laughs with you,
Weep, and you weep alone;
The good old earth must borrow its mirth
But has trouble enough of its own.
But my own interest was caught while I was having a pee in a new friend’s toilet and there in the wall was a poem that caught my fancy – capturing as it does a point that could be usefully translated into Pushtu and Arabic.
So many gods
So many creeds
So many paths that wind and wind
While just the art of being kind
Is all the sad world needs.
I will leave you with that thought to meditate upon.