WISDOM from an American Poet

Desiderata (a Latin word meaning “things to be desired”)

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.

[Today is the birthday of Max Erhmann, an Indiana poet and lawyer. Desiderata is his best known poem although for years it was mistakenly believed to have been discovered in Old St.Paul’s Church, Baltimore, MD in 1692. I seem to come across this every three or four years and have discovered that different parts of the poem speak to me because of what’s happening in my life. When I was in college it was the words “And whether or not it is clear to you,no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” Does any part of the poem speak loudly to you” Please share your comments.  You can buy the book here.]


About Paul Wharton

I am a cradle Catholic, a native West Virginian, and a priest since April 24, 1982. Spiritual Direction has made a tremendous difference in my life and I encourage people to try it out. My motto is "Progress not perfection." I am grateful that God has done for me what I could not do for myself.
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4 Responses to WISDOM from an American Poet

  1. I always thought it was found in St Paul’s Church.

    “Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.” speaks volumes.

    God bless.

  2. Ann Gore Price says:

    My beloved piano teacher framed this poem for my high school graduation gift. She had a frame made out of antique wormy chestnut. It is hanging in a prominent place in my home. What a treasure! What a great memory. What great words of advice at anytime in our lives. Thanks for bringing the memory to my mind.

  3. Barbara Lilly says:

    I have read this and it is inspiritional, thanks for “Hearts On Fire” Peace!

  4. Loretta Hammond says:

    Wow! Desiderata brings back memories of long ago when I was in college in the early 70s. The gift shops & book stores in Huntington had Desiderata on posters and they were popular buys for us college kids. Great words to live by. I “think” I also remember it being on 8-track tape. I’m stopping now….this post is dating me!

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