“Desiderata”, the poem, is one of my favourites. Desiderata is Latin and means “‘things that are yearned for’, which in the context of the poem more closely means ‘essential things’”.
With poetry, we touch the heart, expressing ideas and feelings that really matter to us. Poetry sometimes serves a cathartic function, relieving us of angst and pressing thoughts. Poetry, much like music, can cheer us on, even on the darkest of days. Poetry is a way of appreciating the past, too, and our friends’ and family’s place in it.
Growing up, I was sometimes the recipient of my Dad’s favourite words of encouragement. He was always a good listener, and at appropriate moments, would reach into his wallet, find a much worn scrap of paper, and unfold a line or two of poetic wisdom. He would offer the treasure to me carefully, so that I might take over stewardship of it and benefit from the message.
Mulling things over, I realize that poetry had a special place throughout our family. Dad’s mother loved poetry, too. Side by side, Grandma and I once stood overlooking the ocean at Rathtrevor Beach, as she recited Masefield’s “Sea Fever”. Mum’s grandma also entertained my sister and me as children, with recitations from her repertoire. “I have a little doll…and her name it is Rose; She has two pretty blue eyes, and a very small nose…” (Eliza Lee Cabot Follen)
Perhaps you have heard “Desiderata,” and perhaps not. I would like to share it with you. Its wisdom is timeless.
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 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 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 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 perennial as the grass.
Take kindly to 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 in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Max Ehrmann c.1920