The Desiderata

Max Ehrmann

It’s become a little cliché–it’s hard to bounce back from being printed on a million tea towels–but The Desiderata is full of beauty and wisdom.

The poem is often alleged to have been found in a Baltimore church in 1692 and to be of unknown origin. Not so, it was written around 1920 by lawyer Max Ehrmann (1872-1945) of Terre Haute, Indiana. The myth started when the Reverend Frederick Kates reproduced the poem in a collection of inspirational works in 1959. He used church notepaper, headed: “The Old St Paul’s Church, Baltimore, AD 1692″ (the year the church was founded).

You don’t need to be an Einstein to figure out the rest.

Whatever the history of The Desiderata, Max Ehrmann’s poem offers a positive credo for life. It’s been sneered at by the literati and no doubt been published on a thousand blogs, but here it is once more just because I like it:

The Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare your self with others you may become vain and bitter; for there will always be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress your self with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you consider Him to be, and whatever your labour and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, ca. 1927

You might like Mr Kipling’s effort too.

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