The phrase vale of tears
is widely used but I never knew
whence it derived. I set out on an etymological
this morning. Here are my findings:
Beatus vir, cuius est auxilium abs te! ascensiones in corde suo disposuit in
in loco, quem posuit. Cum beati-tudo nihil aliud sit, quam summi boni fruitio; et summum
bonum sit supra nos: nullus potest effici beatus, nisi supra semetipsum ascendat, non ascensu
corporali, sed cordiali. Sed supra nos levari non possumus nisi per virtutem superiorem nos
Blessed is the man whose help is from thee;
in his heart he hath disposed to ascend by steps
in the vale of tears, in the place which he hath set.
Since happiness is nothing else than the
enjoyment of the Supreme Good and the Supreme Good
is above us, no one can enjoy
happiness unless he rise above himself, not,
indeed by a bodily ascent, but by an ascent of the
heart. But we cannot rise above ourselves unless a
superior power raise us.
Bonaventure, The Soul’s Journey Into God. (Itinerarium mentis in Deum)
We journey through a vale of tears,
By many a cloud o’ercast;
And worldly cares and worldly fears,
Go with us to the last.
Bernard Barton (1784-1849)
Beyond this vale of tears
There is a life above,
Unmeasured by the flight of years;
And all that life is love.
James Montgomery, from The Issues of Life and Death
Down the broad Vale of Tears afar
The spectral camp is fled;
Faith shineth as a morning star,
Our ghastly fears are dead.
THE BELEAGUERED CITY by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Von Hartmann, in like manner, rejecting as mythical the foundation of the
Christian Faith and its hope of the hereafter, takes its historical and only
important content to be the doctrine that "this earthly vale of tears has in itself
no value whatever, but that, on the contrary, the earthly life is composed of
tribulation and daily torment."
The Philosophy of the Unconscious, tr. COUPLAND (London, 1893)
"Pessimism", The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911.
The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001, says that
vale of tears may derive from Baca, an allegorical valley
mentioned in the Bible, via the Vulgate.
7 In valle lacrimarum in loco quem
7 in the vale of tears, in the place
which be hath set.