Don’t Cry Because It’s Over; Smile Because It Happened

Theodor Seuss Geisel? Ludwig Jacobowski? Christopher Roche? Gabriel García Márquez? Anonymous?

smile09Dear Quote Investigator: If you have ever been part of a group with camaraderie that accomplished some worthwhile goal then you know about the sadness experienced when the group finally dissolved. Here are two versions of a saying that offers consolation:

  1. Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.
  2. Don’t cry because it’s ending, smile because it happened.

These words have been attributed to Theodor Geisel who was better known as Dr. Seuss, the famous author of children’s literature; however, I have been unable to locate a good citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: QI and other researchers have been unable to locate any substantive evidence that Dr. Seuss employed this saying. He died in 1991, and it was assigned to him by 2002.

The earliest close match located by QI appeared in a work by the German poet Ludwig Jacobowski titled “Leuchtende Tage” published in the August 1899 issue of a literary journal. The title could be rendered as “Bright Days” or “Radiant Days”. One verse rhapsodized about the bright days of the past, and the next verse began with these two lines, Boldface has been added to excerpts:

Nicht weinen, weil sie vorüber!
Lächeln, weil sie gewesen!

English translation:
Do not cry because they are past!
Smile, because they once were!

The journal was called “Das Magazin für Litteratur”, 1 and the piece was also published in a 1901 analytical work about the poet titled “Ludwig Jacobowski: Ein modernes Dichterbild”. These were the two full verses: 2

Ach, unsre leuchtenden Tage
Glänzen wie ewige Sterne.
Als Trost für künftige Klage
Glüh’n sie aus goldener Ferne.

Nicht weinen, weil sie vorüber!
Lächeln, weil sie gewesen!
Und werden die Tage auch trüber,
Unsere Sterne erlösen!

Special thanks to top researcher Barry Popik who first identified German instances of the expression and performed pioneering research.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Don’t Cry Because It’s Over; Smile Because It Happened

Notes:

  1. August 1899, Das Magazin für Litteratur, Article: Ludwig Jacobowskis “Leuchtende Tage” by Rudolf Steiner, Start Column 745, Quote Column 747, Published by Siegfried Cronbach, Berlin, Germany. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1901, Ludwig Jacobowski: Ein modernes Dichterbild by Professor Dr. Hermann Friedrich, Quote Page 65, Published by Siegfried Cronbach, Berlin, Germany. (Google Books Full View) link