I had always assumed that “Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone” was just an old saying found on eternally-reblogged Tumblr pictures and the covers of overpriced diaries at Barnes & Noble. But as Heather was quick to inform me, it’s actually part of a longer work: “Solitude” by Edna Wheeler Wilcox. Rather than what would first appear to be a call for joy and focusing on the positive things in life, it turns out to be a bitterly depressing portrayal of the stark isolation of pain:
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.
Ultimately, the central message seems to be less like “Cheer up!”, and more like “Fuck people.”