Almighty monarch in the days of old
Made offer of high honour, wealth and gold,
To one who should produce in form concise
A motto for his guidance, terse yet wise--
A precept, soothing in his hours forlorn,
Yet one that in his prosperous days would warn.
Many the maxims sent the king, men say.
The one he chose: This too shall pass away.
Oh, jewel sentence from the mine of truth!
What riches it contains for age or youth.
No stately epic, measured and sublime,
So comforts, or so counsels, for all time
As these few words. Go write them on your heart
And make them of your daily life a part.
Has some misfortune fallen to your lot?
This too will pass away--absorb the thought,
And wait; your waiting will not be in vain.
Time gilds with gold the iron links of pain.
The dark to-day leads into light to-morrow;
There is no endless joy, no endless sorrow.
Are you upon earth's heights? No cloud in view?
Go read your motto once again: This too
Shall pass away, fame, glory, place and power,
They are but little baubles of the hour,
Flung by the ruthless years down in the dust.
Take warning and be worthy of God's trust.
Use well your prowess while it lasts; leave bloom,
Not blight, to mark your footprints to the tomb.
The truest greatness lies in being kind,
The truest wisdom in a happy mind.
He who desponds, his Maker's judgment mocks;
The gloomy Christian is a paradox.
Only the sunny soul respects its God.
Since life is short we need to make it broad;
Since life is brief we need to make it bright.
Then keep the old king's motto well in sight,
And let its meaning permeate each day.
Whatever comes, This too shall pass away.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
The Evening Bulletin [Philadelphia] 1 Aug. 1905: 6.
Courtesy of John M. Freiermuth.
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