Is there any proverb or idiom that conveys this meaning:" Don't rely on this world, since it is not loyal to man forever, today it is in your hand, tomorrow in mine" (actually it is a Persian saying and it implies that money, position, property, power... are not stable or eternal, so don't bond with/rely on this worldly world and just act and live like humans, and don't fight over gaining and keeping those things at any expense!)

For example: The dictators in other countries should learn a serious lesson from what happened to Qaddafi: the world is bound to no man and the six feet of earth make all men equal.

(I found this Jewish proverb, "the world is bound to no man", but I'm not sure if it is used by English speakers or not)

PS: in that Persian saying, "the world" has been resembled to an unfaithful or unreliable beloved whom you shouldn't expect to be with you forever! Maybe tomorrow she would abandon you and go with another one!, (in fact, here, the world means "life's deceitful/ temptating opportunities")

  • 4
    Stephen Crane's short poem "A Man Said to the Universe" fills the bill nicely. Jul 4, 2015 at 17:32
  • Dictators like Gaddafi think that their power will last forever! They don't see even in their dreams that one day they will be treated like this! Because they think that the world is theirs, so losing the world seems as a disloyalty to them!
    – Soudabeh
    Jul 4, 2015 at 19:08
  • @Soudabeh: Try 'he'll get his'
    – Tushar Raj
    Jul 4, 2015 at 19:11
  • Mark Twain said "The world owes you nothing. It was here first."
    – Avon
    Jul 4, 2015 at 22:32
  • 1
    Be kind to people on the way up - you'll meet them again on your way down.----Jimmy Durante
    – user98990
    Jul 5, 2015 at 4:43

7 Answers 7


What is yours today, was someone else's yesterday, will be someone else's tomorrow. Google Books


The only common usage I know of is time makes fools of us all

Time makes fools of us all. Our only comfort is that greater shall come after us.

Essentially, it's saying, with enough time passed, we'll all seem like ignorant apes, clueless and stupid. Nothing stays the same.


This looks like two questions to me. If you're looking for the English version of the Persian story/proverb, this is a good fit:

look on my works ye mighty and despair

This is a sarcastic reference to the poem Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley. In the poem, there's a worn away statue in the middle of nowhere with an inscription that boasts of the immortal empire of the man it depicts, King Ozymandias. The full text is in the link; it's short and a good read. This poem is slightly obscure, so there's a chance that a person might not get the reference.

If you're interested in an idiom with which everyone is familiar, this is your answer:

You can't take it with you

Definition from using English.com:

Enjoy life, enjoy what you have and don't worry about not having a lot, especially money...because once you're dead, 'you can't take it with you.' For some, it means to use up all you have before you die because it's no use to you afterwards.

That's not exactly an authoritative source, but the saying is incredibly common, so you can verify its meaning easily.


Well, I very much like your phrase

The world is bound to no man.

It's short, and incisive and makes you think. It also goes well with John Donne's "No man is an island."


Imperious Caesar, dead and turned to clay,

Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.

also carries a similar idea. As does Shelley's Ozymandias

These last two deal with the transitory nature of earthly power. But for everyday use, bearing in mind that nothing lasts forever and Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return, a common phrase is:

Ashes to ashes

Which is from the Anglican burial service.

  • Thanks @Margana! Good answer! +1, so do you think that that Jewish proverb would be appropriate for being considered as a version of that Persian saying? :)
    – Soudabeh
    Jul 4, 2015 at 20:03
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    Do you need an actual, existing proverb in English, Soudabeh? If you use that Jewish proverb (which seems to be a very good interpretation of the Persian) often enough, it will become an English proverb. In fact, I think I'll start using it myself as soon as I can. It certainly sounds perfectly English, with a hint of mediaeval feudal slavery (being bound). A last reference: the mediaeval poem Worldes Blis. . (Scroll down the page; there's a translation.
    – Margana
    Jul 4, 2015 at 20:11
  • ! , No, if this prover makes sense in English, I think it would be appropriate and would solve my problem!:)
    – Soudabeh
    Jul 4, 2015 at 20:15
  • @ Margana ! That Jewish proverb has been mentioned in this book,too: Sayings Usual and Unusual By R. Dale, page 279, see this,too : oaks.nvg.org/jewish.html
    – Soudabeh
    Jul 4, 2015 at 20:21

On the mortality theme of your example "the six feet of earth make all men equal," here is a line from Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" (1751) that has become proverbial:

The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

The complete stanza reads:

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,

And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,

Awaits alike th' inevitable hour:

The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

(ll. 33-36)

  • +1 for speaking of 'glory' and its connection to our mortality .
    – Papa Poule
    Jul 21, 2015 at 19:55

"All glory is fleeting" is attributed to General George C. Patton as a rough translation of the Latin phrase: " Sic transit Gloria mundi ", which serves as a reminder of the "transitory nature of life and earthly honors [and pleasures?]" (Quora and Wikipedia)


Time and Tide wait for no man.

Time and tide wait for no man: The origin is uncertain, although it's clear that the phrase is ancient and that it predates modern English. The earliest known record is from St. Marher, 1225: "And te tide and te time þat tu iboren were, schal beon iblescet."


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