This, too, shall pass away

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Light from Many Lamps by Lillian Eichler Watson…I bought this used book many, many years ago. Luckily, my husband didn’t find this one as he went on a purging spree of my favorite musty books right after my stem cell transplant (2 years ago). I have retyped everything verbatim along with pronunciation…I think it timeless. In the book, the section is titled, “COURAGE & The Conquest of Fear.”

“The things courage can do!” by Sir James M. Barrie

     We cannot expect to live always on a smooth and even plane. We all face problems, worries, and fears; we all have our setbacks, our sorrows, and misfortunes. They are part of the substance of living, and none of us can escape them. 

     “You must make up your mind to the prospect of sustaining a certain measure of pain and trouble in your passage through life,” said Cardinal Newman.

     As John Burroughs so eloquently pointed out, “We cannot walk through life on mountain peaks.” There are rivers and valleys along the way; some are deep and treacherous, some a cruel challenge to human endurance. But courage conquers all things; and down through the centuries, poets and philosophers have been telling us so in a fascinating variety of ways.

     “The things courage can do!”

You will read about some of these things in the pages that follow. Here are some of the world’s most inspiring sagas of courage and endurance. Here are quotations selected from all times, past and present, to give courage today to the sick, the handicapped, the discouraged, the frightened, the anguished and bereaved.



Long ago, an Eastern monarch, plagued by many worries, harassed on every side, called his wise men together. He asked them to invent a motto, a few magic words that would help him in time of trial or distress. It must be brief enough to be engraved on a ring, hecourage-recovering-from-stem-cell-transplant said, so that he could have it always before his eyes. It must be appropriate to every situation, as useful in prosperity as in adversity. It must be a motto wise and true and endlessly enduring, words by which a man could be guided all his life, in every circumstance, no matter what happened.

     The wise men thought and thought, and finally came to the monarch with their magic words. They were words for every change or chance of fortune, declared the wise men…words to fit every situation, good or bad…words to ease the heart and mind in every circumstance. And the words they gave the monarch to engrave on his ring were:

This, too, shall pass away.

     Century after century, this old legend has survived. Whether or not the motto was invented for a troubled monarch, no one really knows – nor is it in the least important. But this much is certain: The words are wise and true and endlessly enduring. They have proved their power over and over again through the centuries, to uncounted numbers of men and women, in every land and every conceivable situation. They have given comfort to the afflicted, courage to the frightened, hope to the worried and distressed. This, too, shall pass away. Poets and philosophers have stressed these five magic words over and over again, each in his own fashion, but always with the same inspiring influence.

     One day, about a hundred years ago, an American editor came across the legend and paul-hamilton-haynewas impressed by its ancient wisdom. He was Paul Hamilton Hayne, distinguished also as a writer of light lyric verse. He was so enchanted by the legend that he published a brief story about it, and was at once astonished by the lively interest it created. So he decided – as many had before, and many have since – to write some verses about the famous phrase. By some mysterious alchemy, his simple lines made an enormous appeal to the public; and for years tattered copies of “This, Too, Shall Pass Away,” by Paul Hamilton Hayne, were carried around in purse and pocket – the favorite inspirational poem of thousands of people:

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 thee 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 Raymond 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

Robert Louis Stevenson had tuberculosis. His most famous works are Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and A Child’s Garden

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’s comforting to know that no pain or grief can last forever, that whatever your burden may be —this, too, shall pass away.

Watson, Lillian Eichler. Light from Many Lamps. 1951. Simon and Schuster NY; pp 73-76.


_________(fill in the blank)________…this, too, shall pass away



The book, Light From Many Lamps by Lillian Eichler Watsoncan be purchased on


  1. Thank you for sharing your book. It holds a great deal of wisdom that is timeless.

    Marti, you are true beauty. Taking the time to write and share your experiences displays your personal care and love for others.

    Thank you and more!
    Nancy L.

    Liked by 1 person

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