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"This too shall pass" (Persian: این نیز بگذرد‎, translit. īn nīz bogzarad‎) is originally a Persian adage reflecting on the temporary nature, or ephemerality, of the human condition. The phrase seems to have originated in the writings of the medieval Persian Sufi poets, and is often attached to a fable of a great king who is humbled by the simple words. The general sentiment is often expressed in wisdom literature throughout history and across cultures. It also appears in a collection of tales by the English poet Edward Fitzgerald in the early 19th century. It was also notably employed in a speech by Abraham Lincoln before he became the sixteenth President of the United States. Fitzgerald's usage of the phrase is in the context of a retelling of a Persian fable. Some versions of the fable, beginning with that of Attar of Nishapur, add the detail that the phrase is inscribed on a ring, which has the ability to make the happy man sad and the sad man happy.

Contents

HistoryEdit

An early English citation of "this too shall pass" appears in 1848:

When an Eastern sage was desired by his sultan to inscribe on a ring the sentiment which, amidst the perpetual change of human affairs, was most descriptive of their real tendency, he engraved on it the words : — "And this, too, shall pass away." It is impossible to imagine a thought more truly and universally appliable to human affairs than that expressed in these memorable words, or more descriptive of that perpetual oscillation from good to evil, and from evil to good, which from the beginning of the world has been the invariable characteristic of the annals of man, and so evidently flows from the strange mixture of noble and generous with base and selfish inclinations, which is constantly found in the children of Adam.[1]

It was also used in 1852, in a retelling of fable, entitled "Solomon's Seal", by the English poet Edward Fitzgerald.[2] In it, a sultan requests of King Solomon a sentence that would always be true in good times or bad; Solomon responds, "This too will pass away".[3] On September 30, 1859, Abraham Lincoln recounted a similar story:

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: "And this, too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction![4][5]

Origin of the fableEdit

The fable retold by Fitzgerald can be traced to the first half of the 19th century, appearing in American papers by at least as early as 1839.[3] It usually involved a nameless "Eastern monarch". Its origin has been traced to the works of Persian Sufi poets, such as Sanai and Attar of Nishapur.[3] Attar records the fable of a powerful king who asks assembled wise men to create a ring that will make him happy when he is sad. After deliberation the sages hand him a simple ring with the words "This too will pass" etched on it, which has the desired effect to make him happy when he is sad. It also, however, became a curse for whenever he is happy.[3]

Many versions of comparable stories have been recorded by the Israel Folklore Archive at the University of Haifa.[6] Jewish folklore often casts Solomon as either the king humbled by the adage, or as the one who delivers it to another. In some versions the phrase is simplified even further, appearing as only the Hebrew letters gimel, zayin, and yodh, which begin the words "Gam zeh ya'avor" (Hebrew: גם זה יעבור‎‎, gam zeh yaavor), "this too shall pass."

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "The Revolutions in Europe", Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, May, 1848, p. 638
  2. ^ in Polonius: A Collection of Wise Saws and Modern Instances
  3. ^ a b c d Keyes, Ralph (2006). The quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When. Macmillan. pp. 159–160. ISBN 0-312-34004-4. 
  4. ^ "Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society". Abraham Lincoln Online. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. September 30, 1859. 
  5. ^ "The Advantages of "Thorough Cultivation", and the Fallacies of the "Mud-sill" Theory of Labor's Subjection to Capital". Life and Works of Abraham Lincoln. 5. 1907. p. 293. 
  6. ^ Ranke, Kurt (1968). "This Too Will Pass (Jason 910Q)". In Harkort, Fritz; Peeters, Karel Constant; Wildhaber, Robert. Volksüberlieferung: Festschrift für Kurt Ranke. Göttingen: Otto Schwartz. pp. 345–350.