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I Am
Ella Wheeler Wilcox


 I know not whence I came,
     I know not whither I go;
But the fact stands clear that I am here
     In this world of pleasure and woe.
And out of the mist and murk,
     Another truth shines plain.
It is in my power each day and hour
     To add to its joy or its pain.

I know that the earth exists,
     It is none of my business why.
I cannot find out what it's all about,
     I would but waste time to try.
My life is a brief, brief thing,
     I am here for a little space.
And while I stay I would like, if I may,
     To brighten and better the place.

The trouble, I think, with us all
     Is the lack of a high conceit.
If each man thought he was sent to this spot
     To make it a bit more sweet,
How soon we could gladden the world.
     How easily right all wrong.
If nobody shirked, and each one worked
     To help his fellows along.

Cease wondering why you came -
     Stop looking for faults and flaws.
Rise up to-day in your pride and say,
     "I am part of the First Great Cause!
However full the world
     There is room for an earnest man.
It had need of me or I would not be,
     I am here to strengthen the plan."

This poem is in the public domain.


Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) was a popular and prolific poet. Published and lauded before she even graduated from high school, Ella preferred to write happy, upbeat poetry and was much beloved for it. More than a dozen of her poems are included in the book, Best Loved Poems of the American People (Doubleday, 2008). The familiar saying, "Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep, and you weep alone. . ." comes from her best-known poem, "Solitude." A morally strong and spiritual person, Ella believed that her purpose on earth was to practice kindness and service. Read more about her here.



Post New Comment:
Love this positive message from one of my poet Sheroes and who also happens to be my great great great aunt (by marriage). A lovely tributeCaroline Johnson
Posted 08/13/2022 11:24 PM
Wilda Morris:
Thank you for sharing this old poem with such a positive message. I don't remember having seen it before.
Posted 08/13/2022 11:16 PM
An excellent approach to life, and one that would be good for more people to at least consider, if not adopt in some manner.
Posted 08/13/2022 03:49 PM
Darrell Arnold:
There are two main things I strive for every day. One is to be kind. The other is to avoid stress. It is easy to stress oneself pondering the daily wrongs we can't do anything about. Ella's message supports both of my goals. And it has excellent rhyme and meter. Ella's work is always uplifting. Thanks, Jayne.
Posted 08/13/2022 02:45 PM
I love this woman! Hear, hear!! Thank you for publishing this one.
Posted 08/13/2022 12:09 PM
Inspiring then and inspiring today. Her poems must have been required reading because my dad would quote the words you have quoted from her poem on Solitude; and his was an eight-grade education, Thanks, Jayne, for the name of the poem. I will look for it. It will be a saver.
Posted 08/13/2022 11:36 AM
Lori Levy:
Posted 08/13/2022 11:21 AM
Im such an EWW fan and this is as good as any. I hate being part of out ignoring our effects on our planet but theres not much I can do about it that isnt seemingly self-righteous and ineffectual. So Her message falls on open ears.
Posted 08/13/2022 09:36 AM
Janet Leahy:
A good reminder of what is important in life. Wonderful final stanza, will make a copy and try to reelect on it often. Thanks Jayne.
Posted 08/13/2022 09:34 AM
Wonderful, timeless message!!! Love it!
Posted 08/13/2022 09:34 AM
Joan Luther:
Positive poem! The rhythm is upbeat as well. Thank you, Jayne!
Posted 08/13/2022 08:59 AM
Larry Schug:
Beautifully, rhythmically, inspiringly profound inside its simplicity.
Posted 08/13/2022 07:55 AM

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