81. Solitude: Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The drama of adolescence.

Is this not over-the-top enough to count as hyperbole?

Brain development at this point is interesting. In adolescence, the human brain moves from thinking only of itself (what do I want) to realizing that other people have thoughts, too (I want ice cream; everyone must want ice cream). Unfortunately, the adolescent brain has not yet realized that those other thoughts might be DIFFERENT than its thoughts. This is why a teenager does not understand why you don’t know what their vague essays are about, or why you might disagree with them about politics or ice cream flavors.

The best way of describing it is this: When they have a zit, they think everyone is looking at it because they are aware of it. Of course, every other teen is thinking about their own faults and think everyone is watching them, so no one notices anyone else and their flaws.

Teens also suffer from a lack of historical perspective. Their love is the greatest love ever known to human history, and no parent would know what that is like! They are, of course, like no other generation before them. Their dreams are simply too pure to fail. This is why we teach them; they give us hope.

Still, the two elements can be a lethal combination. But, they make for great poetry.



Speak with students about their dreams, loves and what makes them sad. Don’t let them go half way; push them towards the drama in their lives, even if it was only last week and lasted a full hour. Have them journal, so they can keep their thoughts private. Have them share if they are up to it.

Then, have them think of songs that go with it. Love songs. Dumped songs. Friends songs. If they are appropriate, have them bring those songs in. As an entry to the class, students should have their lyrics typed so that you can project them, allowing the class to follow the song (and you to scan for words they might see as inappropriate, but could cost you your job). Deconstruct their song, and why it is (and is not) effective.

Then switch to Ms. Wilcox. How does she capture the swinging pendulum of her life? What is the significance of the title? Is she happy? Are your students? Can they imagine their lives without the drama, and would they be happy if the drama went away?

Would that be a life worth living?

By Ella Wheeler Wilcox

LAUGH, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone.
For the sad old earth must borrow it’s mirth,
But has trouble enough of it’s 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.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: