Many of the poems in Fugitive Poems remained among his famous works throughout Willis's career, including his free verse poem "April." Several showed the influence on him from his conservative religious father. Many are addressed to women — some romantically, some more platonic — and those poems with titles like "On Seeing Through a Distant Window a Belle Completing Her Toilet for a Ball" did little to remove rumors that Willis was living a dissipated and idle life. Even so, at about the same time he was preparing Fugitive Poetry for the press, he was also beginning his career as a periodical editor, first of an annual giftbook called The Token and then a new newspaper he called the American Monthly Magazine. After its failure a couple years later, Willis moved to Europe for a time; it was there that his reputation as a writer began to soar. His poem "The Solitary":
Alone! alone! How drear it is
Always to be alone!
In such a depth of wilderness,
The only thinking one!
The waters in their path rejoice,
The trees together sleep—
But I have not one silver voice
Upon my ear to creep!
The sun upon the silent hills
His mesh of beauty weaves,
There's music in the laughing rills
And in the whispering leaves.
The red deer like the breezes fly
To meet the bounding roe,
But I have not a human sigh
To cheer me as I go.
I've hated men—I hate them now—
But, since they are not here,
I thirst for the familiar brow—
Thirst for the stealing tear.
And I should love to see the one,
And feel the other creep,
And then again I'd be alone
Amid the forest deep.
I thought that I should love my hound,
And hear my cracking gun
Till I forgot the thrilling sound
Of voices—one by one.
I thought that in the leafy hush
Of nature, they would die;
But, as the hindered waters rush,
Resisted feelings fly.
I'm weary of my lonely hut
And of its blasted tree,
The very lake is like my lot,
So silent constantly.
I've lived amid the forest gloom
Until I almost fear—
When will the thrilling voices come
My spirit thirsts to hear?