Means "things to be cultivated, or acquired."

Also, title of a well-known poem written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann (1872-1945). Ehrmann studied philosophy and law at Harvard University as a young man, and then spent a decade writing books which faded quickly into obscurity. He ultimately turned to the practice of law to make a living, but continued to write. He became the deputy prosecuting attorney in Terre Haute, IN.

Ehrmann died in 1945, almost 20 years after writing Desiderata. In the interim, he gave permission to a friend who was a doctor treating veterans with shell shock to distribute the poem as an inspirational text. This act of authorial generosity was ultimately used as legal grounds to declare the work in the public domain, much to the future consternation of the official, legal holder of the publication rights.

In 1948, his widow had Desiderata and some of his other works published as The Poems of Max Ehrmann.

The misattribution of the work as a poem of the 17th century was the result of a rector's printing of the poem for his congregation on church letterhead in the 1950s. This letterhead was printed with "St. Paul's Church" and "1692". Someone reprinting the poem from this source made a misattribution based on this scant "source" information.

In the 1960s, hippies passed out copies on street corners.

In December of 1971, Les Crane's record of his reading of Desiderata against a musical tableau rose to #8 on the charts, and earned him a Grammy Award. Arturo Benavides later recorded a Spanish version, also set to music.

It has the rare distinction of being read as frequently at weddings as at funerals. And the ubiquity of the poem has been assisted by its regular publication in family magazines such as Reader's Digest and Good Housekeeping, appearances in Anne Landers, and by media mentions of it by celebrities such as Johnny Cash and Joan Crawford.

And yet, and yet: despite its mass appeal, despite the fact that it is an exhortation to simply be happy, it is neither hackneyed nor trite. It appeals not to the lowest common denominator, but the highest common denominator. Its popularity, if anything, speaks to the innate desire of the human soul to rise and become numinous.

There seem to be as many different versions of the line breaks in this poem as there are Web sites featuring it (116,000). Most of them run the whole thing together as a single block of calligraphy. Others show it as having very short lines, many breaks. The majority, however, show it in a more conversational format, and it is that which is presented here.

∞ 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 vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will 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 of 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 yourself 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 then 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 may conceive him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its shame, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.


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