Wednesday, 30 December 2009


A friend sent me a poem in an email yesterday. It had no name on it, which always bugs me, since I've been a victim of word theft and author ignorance myself often enough. So... I went looking for the author and found a very interesting woman who gave us a quote that is pretty famous...

"Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
"Weep, and you weep alone."

Recognise that? I bet you do, but do you know who wrote it? I certainly didn't.

The author of that quote, and my email poem, is Ella Wheeler Wilcox. She was born November 1850 in rural Wisconsin.

I found her poem rather remarkable for a woman born two centuries ago. Let's see what you think. :-)

The Law

The sun may be clouded, yet ever the sun
Will sweep on its course till the cycle is run.
And when into chaos the systems are hurled,
Again shall the Builder reshape a new world.

Your path may be clouded, uncertain your goal;
Move on, for the orbit is fixed for your soul.
And though it may lead into darkness of night,
The torch of the Builder shall give it new light.

You were, and you will be: know this while you are.
Your spirit has travelled both long and afar.
It came from the Source, to the Source it returns;
The spark that was lighted, eternally burns.

It slept in the jewel, it leaped in the wave,
It roamed in the forest, it rose in the grave,
It took on strange garbs for long aeons of years,
And now in the soul of yourself it appears.

From body to body your spirit speeds on;
It seeks a new form when the old one is gone;
And the form that it finds is the fabric you wrought
On the loom of the mind, with the fibre of thought.

As dew is drawn upward, in rain to descend,
Your thoughts drift away and in destiny blend.
You cannot escape them; or petty, or great,
Or evil, or noble, they fashion your fate.

Somewhere on some planet, sometime and somehow,
Your life will reflect all the thoughts of your now.
The law is unerring; no blood can atone;
The structure you rear you must live in alone.

From cycle to cycle, through time and through space,
Your lives with your longings will ever keep pace.
And all that you ask for, and all you desire,
Must come at your bidding, as flames out of fire.

Once list to that voice and all tumult is done,
Your life is the life of the Infinite One;
In the hurrying race you are conscious of pause,
With love for the purpose and love for the cause.

You are your own devil, you are your own God,
You fashioned the paths that your footsteps have trod;
And no one can save you from error or sin,
Until you shall hark to the Spirit within.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Copyright 1911


Kerry Bryne said...

As someone who has lived in Wisconsin since 1972, I have to admit my ignorance. I would hope that Language Arts teacher here would include her in their poetry units.

It is a remarkable piece of writing for her, especially given the time and place in which she wrote it.

Thank you, Michelle.

Happy New Year as well!

Connie said...

Very well done poem, Michelle. Thank you for researching the author and sharing it here.

Happy New Year to you! :)

Amel said...

That's quite a poem - and it rhymes too! THANKS for sharing, M! :-))) I think my fave is the second stanza. :-D

Travis Cody said...

Nice job tracking down the author of that quote. There are so many things that become part of our every day vernacular, and it's good to give credit.

Cheers for your New Year!

neena maiya (guyana gyal) said...

"And all that you ask for, and all you desire..." I think I've heard these words in a Don McClean song [don't think I've spelt his name correctly].

She's good, isn't she?

Michelle said...

hi Kerry

Yes, she is definitely even more remarkable for the time period she comes from.

and HAPPY NEW YEAR to you too. :-)

Glad you enjoyed it. :-)

Hi Amel

You made me go back and rearead. Yes, that stanza is really nice. I especially like the first two lines of it. :-)

Hi Travis
It's funny how often we overlook where things come from. I must confess to discovering (years ago) that a quote I always thought was from the Bible was actually from Shakespear! (can't remember what it was now LOL)


Hi G-G

Song lyrics seem to be like blotting paper... they kind of suck up ideas from everywhere.

Yeah, she is good. I must go take a look at the rest of her poems some time.

Hayden said...

I've become interested in the thread of ideas that move through time almost unremarked. It's a counter-movement, not the "big ideas" that are brandished like weapons.

My grandmother (born 1890) was highly literate... and a theosophist and roscrucian, among other "disreputable" things. Quite interesting for a ministers' wife.

Michelle said...

Oh Wow Hayden

Your gran sounds really fascinating and totally cool. :-) You should write about her... or have you? I'd love to know more.