Desiderata: A Case of Mistaken Identity

I’m not entirely sure where I came across this piece, but I recently uncovered it in a whirlwind of house cleaning.  I was impressed all over again with the beautiful language.  The citation on the piece says: “Found in Old Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore; Dated 1692.”  At the bottom it says: “Compliments of Everett’s Bindery, Inc.”

The website for Old Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church has a bit different history of this piece.  It was a poem written by Max Ehrmann and because of its usage in the church hymnal it was accidentally attributed to the 17th century.  Instead, the poem was written in 1927.  The church rector, Reverend Frederick Kates used Desiderata in devotional materials that he compiled for his congregation. It was simply a case of mistaken identity that the poem was attributed to an unknown author from the 17th century.

This story reminds us to always check our citations carefully and always verify sources with cross-references!!

Go placidly amid the noise & haste, & 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 & clearly; and listen to others, even the dull & ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud & aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain & bitter; for always there will be greater & 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 acridity & disenchantment it is 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 & loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees & 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 & aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery & broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.




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