This woman is without equivocation, one of my favorite poets. Solitude is a particularly stunning piece for me. I can inhabit her words quite easily. The first line of the last poem, Protest, is often mistakenly attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but it flowed from the pen of woman who wrote from the heart. It is impossible for me to read that poem and not be shaken to the core by how her words stand the test of time and resonate today.
She was a pretty ballsy gal for her time. I love that. I look for those like her when I seek out new poets or writers. I’m drawn to them like moth to flame.
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.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a long and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.
It Might Have Been
We will be what we could be. Do not say,
“It might have been, had not this, or that, or this.”
No fate can keep us from the chosen way;
He only might who is.
We will do what we could do. Do not dream
Chance leaves a hero, all uncrowned to grieve.
I hold, all men are greatly what they seem;
He does, who could achieve.
We will climb where we could climb. Tell me not
Of adverse storms that kept thee from the height.
What eagle ever missed the peak he sought?
He always climbs who might.
I do not like the phrase “It might have been!”
It lacks force, and life’s best truths perverts:
For I believe we have, and reach, and win,
Whatever our deserts.
To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance and lust,
The Inquisition yet would serve the law,
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare, must speak and speak again
To right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God,
No vested power in this great day and land
Can gag or throttle. Press and voice may cry
Loud disapproval of existing ills,
May criticise oppression and condemn
The lawlessness of wealth-protecting laws
That let the children and child-bearers toil
To purchase ease for idle millionaires.
Therefore do I protest against the boast
Of independence in this mighty land.
Call no chain strong which holds one rusted link,
Call no land free that holds one fettered slave.
Until the manacled, slim wrists of babes
Are loosed to toss in childish sport and glee,
Until the Mother bears no burden save
The precious one beneath her heart, until
God’s soil is rescued from the clutch of greed
And given back to labor, let no man
Call this the land of freedom.