DESIDERATA, “Go placidly amid the noise and haste…”


Desiderata, a poem by Max Ehrmann is surrounded by myth.

Desiderata (Latin: “things desired”)

The myth: The poem was found in 1692 in a Baltimore church, is of unknown origin and centuries old. The myth grew over the years and soared when a copy of Desiderata was found at the bedside of Aidlai Stevenson when he died in 1965.

The facts: Desiderata was actually written around sometime between 1906 and 1920 by Max Ehrmann (1872-1945), a Terra Haute, Indiana lawyer. The poem was copyrighted in 1927 by Max Ehrmann.

Les Crane Photo
Les Crane, 1971

Desiderata was recorded by Les Crane, a San Francisco talk show host in 1970. The song won the Grammy for Best Spoken Word Recording in 1971. Crane enjoyed the fame for a time, but his one-hit-wonder faded into the memories of Baby Boomers. Crane went on to pursue a career in computer software.

The 60s and 70s were a time when “deep thought” was in vogue, particularly in coffee houses where music and poetry were held in high regard.


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.

By Max Ehrmann © 1927
Original text

Desiderata Lampooned

National Lampoon released a parody of the song as “Deteriorata” with Melissa Manchester featured as one of the background singers. The parody change the lyrics of the original poem from “You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here…” to “You are a fluke of the universe, you have no right to be here…”

1 Comment

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