About DESIDERATA by Max Ehrmann
When I studied English—some 20 years ago, my teacher once brought us ‘’ Desiderata’’ for translation. Then it was still believed that this poem was written in 1692 by an unknown author—the widely spread rumor said it was found on the door of Old Saint Paul’s Church in Baltimore, Maryland. In fact, it was written in 1927 by an Indiana poet named Max Ehrmann.
The title ‘’ DESIDERATA’’ , is a Latin word meaning things that are desired( in that case, things that are desired in life) .
With words very meaningful to people of many different cultures and religions, it speaks about life and how to make it full and decent and rich even into old age; about the elderly and the nearness of death. It is a poem that tries to give answers to many questions like decent life and even more decent behavior and death, the reason of life , the responsibilities in life, enjoyment of life, and elegant stepping back giving place and right to the young ones– ‘’gracefully surrender things of youth’’ but without ignoring yourself, following dreams and strive to happiness …
Well, time has passed and I am now not 15 or twenty; in fact I grew older and am approaching fifty now. But, since that time of my young age, Desiderata has always been carrying fresh memories, shining as a guiding light in front of me, as an invisible but clearly visible red line in my life. When I have difficulties in life, when I am desperate and do not know which way to take and to whom to believe and how to go on, I still turn to this poem. And, as some universal medicine it helps me to continue and to feel better…. After all, ‘’ With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.’’
What else to add, if I modestly dare show you the poem now that is because it is still not so popular, maybe even unknown among most of the young people. They, as it is well known, hardly read books nowadays so using the opportunity to show it to as many people as possible is more than opportunely, I think .
Therefore, read it and enjoy!
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 the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or 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 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.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as 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 dark 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 conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors 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.
Strive to be happy.