Even This Shall Pass Away
I memorized the first stanza of this long ago, and it has both helped and haunted me over the years... I was delighted to discover the entire poem recently, and even more impressed with its full message.
Once in Persia reigned a king,
Who upon his signet ring
Graved a maxim true and wise,
Which, if held before the eyes,
Gave his counsel at a glance
Fit every change and every chance.
Solemn words, and these are they:
"Even this shall pass away."Trains of camels through the sand
Brought him gems from Samarkand;
Fleets of galleys through the seas
Brought him pearls to match with these;
But he counted not his gain
Treasures of the mine or main;
"What is wealth?" the king would say;
"Even this shall pass away."'Mid the revels of his court,
At the zenith of his sport,
When the palms of all his guest
Burned with clapping at his jest,
He, amid his figs and wine,
Cried, "O loving friends of mine,
Pleasures come, but not to stay;
Even this shall pass away."Lady, fairest ever seen,
Was the bride he crowned his queen.
Pillowed on his marriage bed,
Softly to his soul he said:
"Though no bridegroom ever pressed
Fairer bosom to his breast,
Mortal flesh must come to clay -
Even this shall pass away."Fighting on a furious field,
Once a javelin pierced his shield.
Soldiers, with a loud lament,
Bore him bleeding to his tent.
Groaning from his tortured side,
"Pain is hard to bear," he cried;
But with patience, day by day,
Even this shall pass away."Towering in the public square,
Twenty cubits in the air
Rose his statue, carved in stone.
Then the king, disguised, unknown,
Stood before his sculptured name,
Musing meekly, "What is fame?
Fame is but a slow decay -
Even this shall pass away."Struck with palsy, sore and old,
Waiting at the Gates of Gold,
Said he with his dying breath,
"Life is done, but what is Death?"
Then, in answer to the king,
Fell a sunbeam on his ring.
Showing by a heavenly ray,
"Even this shall pass away."-Theodore Tilton