This too shall pass
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"This too shall pass" (Persian: این نیز بگذرد, pronunciation:īn nīz bogzarad, Arabic: لا شيء يدوم ("Nothing endures"), Hebrew: גם זה יעבור) is an adage indicating that all material conditions, positive or negative, are temporary. 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. 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. Jewish folklore often describes Solomon as giving or receiving the phrase. The adage and associated fable were popular in the first half of the 19th century, appearing in a collection of tales by the English poet Edward Fitzgerald and being employed in a speech by Abraham Lincoln before he became president.
The phrase appears in the works of Persian Sufi poets, such as Sanai and Attar of Nishapur. 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 thus it became a curse whenever he is happy.
Jewish folklore often casts Solomon as either the king humbled by the adage, or as the one who delivers it to another. Many versions of the folktale have been recorded by the Israel Folklore Archive at the University of Haifa. 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."
The story, generally attached to a nameless "Eastern monarch", became popular in the West in the first half of the 19th century, appearing in American papers by at least as early as 1839. In 1852, the English poet Edward Fitzgerald included a brief version in his collection Polonius: A Collection of Wise Saws and Modern Instances. Fitzgerald's unattributed version, titled "Solomon's Seal", describes a sultan requesting of King Solomon a sentence that would always be true in good times or bad; Solomon responds, "This too will pass away". On September 30, 1859, Abraham Lincoln included a similar story in an address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in Milwaukee:
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!
- Keyes, p. 160.
- Taylor, Archer (1968). "This Too Will Pass (Jason 910Q)". In Harkort, F.; Peeters, K. C.; and Wildhaber, R. Volksüberlieferung: Festschrift für Kurt Ranke. Göttingen: Schwartz. pp. 345–350.
- Keyes, p. 159.
- Source "[Lincoln] Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, Milwaukee, Wisconsin". Abraham Lincoln Online. September 30, 1859.
- "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.
- Keyes, Ralph (2006). The quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When. Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-34004-4. Retrieved March 3, 2010.
- Solomon, Avi (2011). This Too Shall Pass: Tracing an Ancient Jewish Folktale. ASIN B005S5LDQM. Retrieved October 3, 2011.