This too shall pass away

Art thou in misery, brother? Then I pray
Be comforted. Thy grief shall pass away.
Art thou elated? Ah, be not too gay;
Temper thy joy: this, too, shall pass away.
Art thou in danger? Still let reason sway,
And cling to hope: this, too, shall pass away.
Tempted art thou? In all thine anguish lay
One truth to heart: this, too, shall pass away.
Do rays of loftier glory round the play?
Kinglike art thou? This, too, shall pass away!
Whate’er thou art, where’er thy footsteps stray,
Heed these wise words: This, too, shall pass away.


Paul Hayne’s poem won wide popularity in his own day; and it has kept circulating ever since, continuing its influence on the afflicted, the distraught, the discouraged. Every now and then it makes a tour of the newspapers, or is featured in magazines. Sometimes it appears with a different title, or with lines changed to suit the times, or with verses added or subtracted. Many other poets have used the same theme, before and since; and occasionally a hodgepodge of verses from various sources is collected and published as “anonymous” or “author unknown.” But the philosophy is always the same, and always helpful to the troubled or despairing. This, too, shall pass away.


When Ray Stannard Baker was Ill and in great pain, he remembered the famous phrase and found it comforting. He wrote in his notebook: “Nothing lasts-not even pain.”


When Stevenson was suffering bodily torment, weakened and wearied by the long struggle against tuberculosis, he kept reminding himself of the famous phrase, hoping each morning would find him better. It helped him to put his suffering out of his mind, helped him to keep writing. “A chapter a day I mean to do,” he wrote to his friend William E.Henley- a man whose brand of courage matched his own.


When Lincoln was forced to endure the hatred of millions because of his steadfast loyalty to purpose and principles, when he was bitterly reviled and condemned for refusing to consider an unjust peace, he reminded himself that this, too, would pass in time … and that with God’s help he would weather the storm.


Countless other stories could be told of this inspiring phrase, these five magic words which legend says were engraved by wise men on a monarch’s ring many centuries ago. They are comforting words for all of us to remember in times of trial or trouble in times of hardship or affliction. When nothing else helps, it is comforting to know that no pain or grief can last forever, that whatever burden may be – this, too, shall pass away.


Taken from Light from many lamps by Lillian Eichler Watson.

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