Open main menu

Wikipedia β

1976 edition of The Desiderata of Happiness poetry collection

"Desiderata" (Latin: "desired things") is a 1927 prose poem by American writer Max Ehrmann. Largely unknown in the author's lifetime, the text became widely known after its use in devotional and spoken-word recordings in 1971 and 1972.



Go placidly amid the noise and the 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 to the dull and the 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 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.

Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. [1]

American writer Max Ehrmann (1872–1945) wrote the prose poem Desiderata in 1927, which was first published in The Poems of Max Ehrmann in 1948.[1][2] In 1956, the Reverend Frederick Kates, rector of Saint Paul's Church in Baltimore, Maryland, included Desiderata in a compilation of devotional materials for his congregation. The compilation included the church's foundation date: "Old Saint Paul's Church, Baltimore AD 1692". Consequently, the date of the text's authorship was (and still is) widely mistaken as 1692, the year of the church's foundation.[2][3]

Uses in popular cultureEdit

There have been many uses of the poem in the popular canon:

  • When US Democratic presidential hopeful Adlai Stevenson died in 1965, a guest in his home found the Desiderata near his bedside and discovered that Stevenson had planned to use it in his Christmas cards. This contributed further to the poem becoming widely known.[2]
  • The text was widely distributed in poster form in the 1960s and 1970s.[4]
  • Calling it "Spock Thoughts", Leonard Nimoy recited the poem on his 1968 album, Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy. This version also appeared on the 1995 re-release of Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock's Music from Outer Space. His rendition is not the only one to change the second-to-last sentence from "Be Cheerful" to "Be Careful".
  • In concluding her January 8, 1970, interview with David Frost, actress Joan Crawford recited Desiderata.[5]
  • In late 1971 and early 1972, Les Crane's spoken-word recording of Desiderata (the lead track on his 1971 Warner Bros. album Desiderata)[6] peaked at #8 on the Billboard chart, #4 on the Canadian RPM Magazine chart, and #6 on the UK Melody Maker's chart. It made #4 on the Australian singles chart in 1971. The producers of Crane's recording assumed that the poem was too old to be in copyright, but the publicity surrounding the record led to clarification of Ehrmann's authorship and his family eventually receiving royalties. The British band In the Nursery adapted the poem to music on its 1992 album Duality.[7]
  • A Spanish language version by Mexican actor Jorge Lavat topped the Mexican charts for six weeks in 1972.
  • In 1972, National Lampoon did a parody on this prose entitled "Deteriorata", which featured the line: "You are a fluke of the universe".
  • In response to his government's losing its majority in the Canadian federal election, 1972 Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau quoted Desiderata by reassuring the nation that "the universe is unfolding as it should."[8] He also quoted the poem's final stanza at the end of his concession speech after losing the 1979 election to Joe Clark.
  • On August 26, 2010, a bronze statue of Ehrmann sitting on a park bench was unveiled in Terre Haute, Indiana, his hometown, with the sculpture done by Bill Wolfe. On a nearby walkway, some lines of the poem are also available to be read by passers-by.[9]
  • Actor Morgan Freeman interviewed on Oprah Winfrey's Master Class television special (2012), expressed how deeply the poem Desiderata shaped his life.[10]
  • Reggae band SOJA has a Grammy nominated album titled Amid the Noise and Haste in reference to this poem.
  • Canadian indie rock band The New Pornographers' song You Tell Me Where references Desiderata by name.
  • Lazyboy the band has a song 'Desiderata' which quotes this poem on their album LazyBoy TV[11]
  • Director Nicolas Pesce's 2016 horror The Eyes of My Mother features a scene in which the main character quotes the first two sentences of Desiderata in Portuguese.
  • In Christian Cameron 's book The Red Knight , a queen is given the namesake Desiderata

Copyright statusEdit

The poem's copyright A 962402[12] was registered by Ehrmann on January 3, 1927, as "Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, etc. Card.",[13] and was renewed by his widow, Bertha K. Ehrmann, in 1954.[14]

In 1942, Max Ehrmann gave permission to Dr Charles Moore, a U.S. Army psychiatrist, to distribute copies of the poem to soldiers.[15] Three years after Ehrmann's death, his widow included Desiderata in The Poems of Max Ehrmann, published in 1948 by the Bruce Humphries Publishing Company, of Boston. In 1967, Robert L. Bell, acquired the publishing rights from Bruce Humphries Publishing Company, where he was president, and then bought the copyright from Richard Wright, nephew and heir to the Ehrmann works.[16]

In August 1971, the poem was published in Success Unlimited magazine, without permission from Robert L. Bell. In a 1976 lawsuit[17] against the magazine's publisher, Combined Registry Company, the court ruled (and subsequently the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld)[15] that copyright had been forfeited because the poem had been authorized for publication without a copyright notice in the 1940s – and that the poem was therefore in the public domain.[18]


  1. ^ a b Ehrmann, Bertha, ed. (1948). "The Poems of Max Ehrmann". Bruce Humphries, Inc. p. 165.  Original Text
  2. ^ a b c Cavinder, Fred D. (August 1973). "Desiderata". TWA Ambassador. pp. 14–15.  via Platt, Suzy, ed. (1993). Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. Library of Congress. Barnes & Noble. p. 212. Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
  3. ^ "Desiderata History". Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  4. ^ Katz, Barbara J. (November 27, 1977). "Popular Prose-Poem is No Work of the Ages". Washington Post. Retrieved 7 September 2016. 
  5. ^ ""The David Frost Show" Episode #2.100 (TV Episode 1970)". IMDb. Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  6. ^ "Les Crane – Desiderata". Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
    Warner Bros. Records BS 2570
  7. ^ "Duality". 
  8. ^ Valpy, Michael (June 25, 2004). "'The universe is unfolding as it should'". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 7 September 2016. 
  9. ^ Boyce, Brian (August 27, 2010). "Max takes his seat at the Crossroads of America". Tribune-Star. Terre Haute, Indiana. Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  10. ^ "Morgan's Poem on Master Class - Zavvi Rodaine". Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  11. ^ AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus (2006-09-04). "Lazyboy TV - Lazy-B,Lazyboy | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-10-03. 
  12. ^ "File:Desiderata 1927 Copyright record.jpg". Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  13. ^   This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "[1], Catalog of Copyright Entries, 1927 Pamphlets, Dramatic Compositions And Maps New Series Vol 24 Part 1 (1927)" by Library of Congress Copyright Office (retrieved on 18 August 2013).
  14. ^   This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "[2], Copyright Renewal Database Long Record R127188" by Stanford University Copyright Renewal Database (retrieved on 18 August 2013).
  15. ^ a b Bell v. Combined Registry Co., 536 F. 2d 164, No. 75-1753 (Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit 1976) (“The judgment appealed from is AFFIRMED.”).
  16. ^ "Desiderata History". Retrieved 1 July 2015. 
  17. ^ Bell v. Combined Registry Company, 397 F. Supp. 1241, No. 72 C 1819 (Dist. Court, ND Illinois 1975) (“...the court finds that the author and copyright proprietor, Max Ehrmann, both abandoned and forfeited the copyright in Desiderata.”).
  18. ^ "Bell v. Combined Registry Co., 536 F.2d 164 (7th Cir., 1976)". United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. May 14, 1976.