If you’re feeling sad, unhappy, or lonely, read this text. It was written by the poet Max Ehrmann way back in the 1920s. The poem is called Desiderata.
In his diary, Max Ehrmann wrote, “I would like, if I can, to leave a gift after I leave: a short essay imbued with a noble spirit.” It was around the same time that he wrote Desiderata.
The author is Max Ehrmann, a poet and lawyer from Terre Haute, Indiana, who lived from 1872 to 1945. It has been reported that Desiderata was inspired by an urge that Ehrmann wrote about in his diary:
“I should like, if I could, to leave a humble gift — a bit of chaste prose that had caught up some noble moods.”
Around 1959, the Rev. Frederick Kates, the rector of St. Paul’s Church in Baltimore, Maryland, used the poem in a collection of devotional materials he compiled for his congregation. (Some years earlier he had come across a copy of Desiderata.) At the top of the handout was the notation, “Old St. Paul’s Church, Baltimore A.C. 1692.” The church was founded in 1692.
Desiderata is Latin and has been interpreted as “Things to be Desired” or “Things Desired As Essential.”
Read these lines — they contain a very important message!
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious
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.
Be yourself. 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 in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.