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Max Ehrmann

From Academic Kids

Max Ehrmann (September 26, 1872 - September 9, 1945), an attorney from Indiana, was best known for writing the Desiderata (Latin: something desired as essential) in 1927.

Contents

The Baltimore hoax

In about 1965 copies of the poem were circulated to various publications with the fraudulent (or perhaps simply mistaken) attribution "Found in Old Saint Paul's Church, Baltimore; Dated 1692", and it was widely reprinted on the assumption that it was in the public domain. Even Analog Science Fact / Science Fiction was taken in. On close analysis some of the concepts expressed in the poem seem too sophisticated for the 17th century, yet even today many people still believe the hoax.

Desiderata

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 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 not this 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.


Alternate Version

Some published versions of the poem end with the phrase "Be careful" rather than "Be cheerful". Lacking a definitive published source, the reader may decide which is in keeping with the rest of the poem. Most verses are in the form of opposed admonitions, as:

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.</blockquote> This lends some credence to the alternate phrasing "Be careful", opposing the following phrase "Strive to be happy".

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