This too shall pass

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This article is about the adage. For other uses, see This too shall pass (disambiguation).

"This too shall pass" is an English-language adage reflecting on the evanecense of the human condition. While the general sentiment is often expressed in wisdom literature throughout history and across cultures, this particular phrasing appears to date to the early 19th century, appearing in a collection of tales by the English poet Edward Fitzgerald. It was 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. The original Persian adage reads Persian: این نیز بگذرد‎‎, īn nīz bogzarad "this too shall pass".[citation needed]


The phrase "this too shall pass" is first used in 1852, in a retelling of a fable by the English poet Edward Fitzgerald included in his collection Polonius: A Collection of Wise Saws and Modern Instances. Fitzgerald's fable had the title "Solomon's Seal". It 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".[1] 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![2][3]

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.[1] 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.[4] 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"[dubious ] 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.[4]

Many versions of comparable stories have been recorded by the Israel Folklore Archive at the University of Haifa.[5] 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 also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Keyes, p. 159.
  2. ^ Source "[Lincoln] Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, Milwaukee, Wisconsin" Check |url= value (help). Abraham Lincoln Online. September 30, 1859. 
  3. ^ "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. 
  4. ^ a b Keyes, p. 160.
  5. ^ Taylor, Archer (1968). "This Too Will Pass (Jason 910Q)". In Harkort, F.; Peeters, K. C.; Wildhaber, R. Volksüberlieferung: Festschrift für Kurt Ranke. Göttingen: Schwartz. pp. 345–350.