This too shall pass

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"This too shall pass" (Persian: این نیز بگذرد, romanizedīn nīz bogzarad) is an adage about impermanence of Persian origin. It reflects the temporary nature, or ephemerality, of the human condition — that neither the negative nor the positive moments in life ever indefinitely last. The general sentiment of the adage is found in wisdom literature throughout history and across cultures, but the specific phrase seems to have originated in the writings of the medieval Persian Sufi poets.

It is known in the Western world primarily due to a 19th-century retelling of a Persian fable by the English poet Edward FitzGerald:[1]


The Sultan asked Solomon for a Signet motto, that
should hold good for Adversity or Prosperity. Solomon
gave him,


It was also notably employed in a speech by Abraham Lincoln before he became the sixteenth President of the United States.[2]


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 applicable 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.[3]

It was also used in 1852, in a retelling of the fable entitled "Solomon's Seal" by the English poet Edward FitzGerald.[4][5] 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".[6] 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![7][8]

Origin of the fable[edit]

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.[6] It usually involved a nameless "Eastern monarch". Its origin has been traced to the works of Persian Sufi poets, such as Rumi, Sanai and Attar of Nishapur.[6] 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 Persian words "This too shall pass" etched on it, which has the desired effect.[6]

This story also appears in Jewish folklore.[9] Many versions of the story have been recorded by the Israel Folklore Archive at the University of Haifa.[10] 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 an acronym, only the Hebrew letters gimel, zayin, and yodh, which begin the words "Gam zeh ya'avor" (Hebrew: גַּם זֶה יַעֲבֹ‏ר, gam zeh yaavor), "this too shall pass."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Works of Edward FitzGerald". Polonius: A Collection of Wise Saws and Modern Instances. Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1887. p. 433.
  2. ^ Springfield, Mailing Address: 413 S. 8th Street; Us, IL 62701 Phone: 217 492-4241 Contact. "Lincoln on America's Future - Lincoln Home National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service)". Retrieved 2023-11-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ "The Revolutions in Europe", Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, May, 1848, p. 638
  4. ^ in Polonius: A Collection of Wise Saws and Modern Instances
  5. ^ Works of Edward Fitzgerald (PDF). Translated by Omar Khayyam. Forgotten Books. 2016.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society". Abraham Lincoln Online. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. September 30, 1859.
  8. ^ "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. Vol. 5. 1907. p. 293.
  9. ^ Leiman, Shnayer Z. (Spring 2008). "Judith Ish-Kishor: This Too Shall Pass". Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought. 41 (1): 71–77. JSTOR 23263507.
  10. ^ Taylor, Archer (1968). "This Too Will Pass". In Harkort, Fritz; Peeters, Karel Constant; Wildhaber, Robert (eds.). Volksüberlieferung: Festschrift für Kurt Ranke. Göttingen: Otto Schwartz. pp. 345–350.