Poetry Sunday: Desiderata

I spent much of the last week clearing out closets and drawers and divesting myself of extraneous possessions - clothing, household linens and other goods no longer used - and organizing what was left over. A lot of the stuff went into donation bags; some was not salvageable and went out with the trash.

It's always a revelation to me when I do one of these clear-outs. I always come across things that I had forgotten that I had. So it was again this week.

Tucked away in a corner of a shelf in the hall closet was a small wooden plaque with the inspirational poem Desiderata decoupaged onto it. Like many of my generation, I first became aware of this poem in the 1970s when a recording of the poem being read was very popular. It was meaningful to me then, perhaps because it came at a time when I particularly needed reassurance that I had "a right to be here."

Since the universe sent me this message again last week, let's make it the poem of the week.


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 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 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 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. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927


The news of the day certainly makes it hard to believe that "the universe is unfolding as it should," but our vision is limited, and, as a child of that universe, perhaps we just need to cultivate peace and acceptance of the things we cannot control but strive for high ideals and try to make things better where we can.

Little acts by individuals can add up and make a difference. I believe that. Still. 


  1. Desiderata ... one of my all time favorites.....

  2. I remember that plaque, though I'd never actually read it all the way through. It's beautiful.

    1. It is a wonderful summation of what I believe - so, very meaningful to me.


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