Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s Life

Ella Wheeler Wilcox was a renowned American poetess and journalist. She was born in Johnstown, Wisconsin on November 5, 1850. The most popular work of Wilcox was “Poems of Passion”. Her autobiography, “The Worlds and I” was published a year before her death in 1918.

Her style is romantic, optimistic and sentimental. Although she wrote her poems with optimism and joyfulness in plain rhyming verses, she is considered a popular poetess compared to her counterparts. She was compared to Walt Whitman in her lifetime on account of the passionate feelings she poured into her works. However, she maintained her traditional poetic style unlike Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. Additionally, she was popular for her verse shaded with eroticism. One of her most popular poems is “Solitude”, published in 25th Feb, 1883, which contains this line “Laugh, and the world laughs with you”.

Following her marriage in 1884, she became keenly interested in new thought, spiritualism and theosophy. She made a lot of effort in order to teach occult to the world. Her works are filled with positive thoughts, which became very popular in New Thought Movement. The following statement by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, “As we think, act, and live here today, we built the structures of our homes in spirit realms after we leave earth…..” is an indication of her unique unification of spiritualism, theosophy and New Thought.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s Works

Her best remembered poems include “The Winds of Fate” and “Solitude”. The opening lines of “Solitude” are used in a film “Oldboy” starring Park Chan-wook. “Solitude” is one of her most famous poems and was published in February 1883 in The New York Sun. The source of inspiration came as she traveled to attend the inaugural ball of the governor in Wisconsin. She was awarded $5 by The New York Sun for this. Yet, she has also been cited in anthologies of bad poetry such as “The Stuffed Owl: An Anthology of Bad Verse” and “Very Bad Poetry”.

The poem, “Over the Banisters” was adapted as a song in a popular film “Meet Me in St. Louis” by Judy Garland. “I Like Cigars Beneath the Stars” is another poem, adapted into a song by E. C. Walker and the Huelgas Ensemble recorded it in 2010. The first stanza of her poem “The Man Worth While” was parodied in a film, Caddyshack in which a character Judge Smails reads the following lines: “It’s easy to grin when your ship comes in / And you’ve got the stock market beat”.
The first stanza of her popular poem, “The Man Worth While” is found in the boiler room part of the Tower of Terror in the Hollywood Studio of Disney. Her other famous poem, “The Winds of Fate” is an amazing piece of art written with great economy of words and it opens “One ship drives east and another drives west / With the selfsame winds that blow”. Ella Wheeler was very sensitive about alleviation of animal sufferings. This can be clearly seen in her poem “Voice of the Voiceless” that begins with “I am the voice of the voiceless; / Through me the dumb shall speak”.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s Style and Popular Poems

Her world view about optimism and hopefulness is expressed plainly in her poem, “Whatever Is—Is Best” that suggests echo of an essay “Whatever is, is right” written by Alexander Pope. There are many popular collections of poems of Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Examples of Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s works are “It Might Have Been”, “I Love You”, “A Baby in the House”, “A Fable”, “A Fallen Leaf”, A Golden Day”, “A Man’s Repentance”, “The Voice of the Voiceless”,” Roads to God “, “To An Astrologer”, “Poems of Cheer”, “Poems of Experience”, “Poems of Optimism”, “Poems of Passion”, “Poems of Power”, “Poems of Purpose”, “Poems of Sentiment” and “A Woman of the World”.

More About Wilcox

The name of Ella Wheeler Wilcox became unlikely a source of inspiration for doggerel written by English humorist Richard Murdoch, which were used in Alexandre Luigini’s “Ballet égyptien”. The poetess made her special appearance in France during World War I where she recited her poem, “The Stevedores” while visiting a camp of U.S. Army stevedores.

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