Erotic Fridays: Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Ella_Wheeler_Wilcox_circa_1919

I’ll admit that I have never heard of her, however, her famous line from the poem Solitude, I have; “Laugh, and the world laughs with you;. Weep, and you weep alone”.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox, née Ella Wheeler, (born Nov. 5, 1850, Johnstown Center, Rock county, Wis., U.S.—died Oct. 30, 1919, Short Beach, Conn.), American poet and journalist who is perhaps best remembered for verse tinged with an eroticism that, while rather oblique, was still unconventional for her time.

Ella Wheeler from an early age was an avid reader of popular literature, especially the novels of E.D.E.N. Southworth, Mary Jane Holmes, and Ouida. Her first published work, some sketches submitted to the New York Mercury, appeared when she was 14 years old. Soon her poems were appearing in the Waverly Magazine and Leslie’s Weekly. Except for a year at the University of Wisconsin (1867–68), she devoted herself thereafter to writing.

Wheeler’s first book, a collection of temperance verses, appeared in 1872 as Drops of Water. Shells, a collection of religious and moral poems, followed in 1873 and Maurine, a highly sentimental verse narrative, in 1876. The rejection of her next book, a collection of love poems, by a Chicago publisher on grounds that it was immoral helped ensure its success when it was issued by another publisher in 1883 as Poems of Passion, a titillating title that was as racy as any of the contents. The sale of 60,000 copies in two years firmly established Wheeler’s reputation.

In 1884 she married Robert M. Wilcox, a businessman. While making herself the centre of a literary coterie, Wilcox continued to pour out verses laced with platitudes and easy profundities. They were collected in such volumes as Men, Women, and Emotions (1893), Poems of Pleasure (1888), Poems of Sentiment (1906), Gems (1912), and World Voices (1918).

After her husband’s death in 1916, Wilcox made her long-standing interest in spiritualism the subject of a series of columns as she sought—successfully, she claimed—to contact his spirit. At her husband’s direction (she said), Wilcox undertook a lecture and poetry-reading tour of Allied army camps in France in 1918.

This poem I selected was one which I felt really spoke to me. There is so much loving, longing and loss which makes it dear and erotic to me.  Enjoy.

F. M. Laster

“I only like two kinds of men, domestic and imported.” -Mae West

From The Grave

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

When the first sere leaves of the year were falling,
I heard, with a heart that was strangely thrilled,
Out of the grave of a dead Past calling,
A voice I fancied forever stilled.
All through winter and spring and summer,
Silence hung over that grave like a pall,
But, borne on the breath of the last sad comer,
I listen again to the old-time call.
It is only a love of a by-gone season,
A senseless folly that mocked at me
A reckless passion that lacked all reason,
So I killed it, and hid it where none could see.
I smothered it first to stop its crying,
Then stabbed it through with a good sharp blade,
And cold and pallid I saw it lying,
And deep—ah’ deep was the grave I made.
But now I know that there is no killing
A thing like Love, for it laughs at Death.
There is no hushing, there is no stilling
That which is part of your life and breath.
You may bury it deep, and leave behind you
The land, the people, that knew your slain;
It will push the sods from its grave, and find you
On wastes of water or desert plain.
You may hear but tongues of a foreign people,
You may list to sounds that are strange and new;
But, clear as a silver bell in a steeple,
That voice from the grave shall call to you.
You may rouse your pride, you may use your reason.
And seem for a space to slay Love so;
But, all in its own good time and season,
It will rise and follow wherever you go.
You shall sit sometimes, when the leaves are falling,
Alone with your heart, as I sit to-day,
And hear that voice from your dead Past calling
Out of the graves that you hid away.

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