Desiderata Poem Meaning And Analysis

desiderata poem by Max EhrmannBack in 1927, a gentleman named Max Ehrmann, wrote a poem titled “Desiderata”. It was not particularly well known during his lifetime. But it became a huge hit in the 60’s and the 70’s when someone who mistakenly thought the work was in the public domain, made a poster of it.

And Desiderata became a huge hit. Not just the poster, but narrated versions of the poem by Leonard Nimoy and Les Crane became big hits too.

Back in the day, I really liked this poem and gave a poster of it to my sister. My sister in turn gave that copy to our niece as a gift, and she asked me what it meant. So I have put together here an analysis and interpretation of the poem’s words. It’s not a literary analysis for sure, and the poem itself is a beautiful work, full of delightful phrasing which still stirs my soul when i read it, these many years later.

Below, I have put the original words of the poem in regular font and a short interpretation about it in bold face. For sure, my thoughts about what it means might be different from those of anyone else, and if you have  a thought you would like to share, please leave a comment.

Thank you Eileen, Nancy and Amanda

Desiderata

“This is what I want in my life”

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

“Stop talking to fill the silence and listen to your own inner voice.”

As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Everyone is walking their own path with their own struggles and could really use your good thoughts.”

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

“Loud and noisy persons are almost always trying to get you to pay attention to them instead of the voice of your own heart. TV and the internet are full of these people, it is OK to let them go.”

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

“You are already you and nobody is going to be any better at being you than you are. And it is OK to let other people to be who they are.”

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

“Much of the fun in life is the journey, not just the destination. If you don’t enjoy the journey, you are wasting most of your life.”

Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

“Pick something you like to do and learn more about it, and let everyone else do the same.”

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.

“Individually, people are pretty good. Many of them think they have to act some other way at work, they don’t have to, but they think they do. In their hearts, most people are kind and good. Pay attention to that part of them.”

Be yourself.

“Don’t pretend to be somebody you aren’t. It doesn’t work well, never lasts, and is always a waste of time. But understand that who you are how you think is going to change over the course of your lifetime.”

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.

“The greatest commandment is love. It is all that counts, and if you concentrate on loving others, you will find your own life filled with love in return.”

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

“It is OK to grow up, your view on things changes, and it’s really a lot of fun, no matter what the commercials try to tell you about wanting to stay a child.”

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.

“Real spirituality is always about love and light. If a spiritual practice or religion teaches anything different than that – especially if they are teaching you to be afraid – that teaching is wrong, and its time for you to let go of your attachment to it.”

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

“That inner voice that talks to you, you have control over, and when you let it say nice things to you, your life becomes more beautiful.”

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.

“You are not a mistake, you are not a sinner, and everything you are is God. Everything. You are not cut off from God, he doesn’t think you are bad and every day He is sending you signs and symbols of how much He loves you.”

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 with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

“Its OK, the part that counts most is your heart. Think good thoughts, do good things, and allow others to do the same for you. Your perception of life will change tremendously, much for the better.”

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

“Let yourself be happy. Your life will be so much better when you are.”

Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”

The Desiderata poem is one of those classic pieces of timeless writing and so we put together a beautiful printable pdf copy of the Poem that you can download for free. :-)

Click this button to download your free PDF copy of the Desiderata poem with pictures:

Download Free PDF of Desiderata With Pictures


Comments 73

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  1. Janina

    Hi there, I enjoy reading through your post. I wanted to write a little comment to support you because I used to have this poster taped up on my wall when i was a kid.

    I don’t want to say it was a long time ago, but it was definitely longer than I want to remember. :-)
    Janina recently posted..hcg drops reviewsMy Profile

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      Michael

      No worries, Janina. The world is a very big place and even if we might think something was a long time ago, the truth is, all time is now. Thank you for your comment.

  2. Elvia

    I got a link to your site from my girlfriend Donna who said she is on your email list and that she visits your website often.

    She like it and now I do too. Thank you for sharing this with the web community.

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      Michael

      It was funny that I wrote this because my sister gave my niece her original copy. Maybe not Ha Ha funny, but interesting and cool in that very metaphysical kind of way.

  3. Designer Dave

    I spend a lot of time online looking for information that rally makes a difference in people’s lives. Your site is one of the one that I rad often. Please write more.

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  4. Enrique

    I looked in Google to find out about how to interpret the desiderata poem, I am glad I clicked on this link. Thanks. Hope your niece like it. :-)

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  5. Ashli

    Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I’ll make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more
    of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will certainly return.

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  6. Anna Hensley

    I loved this poster when I was a kid. It was undeniably one of the best things to come form the 70’s for me. And your intrepertatin was right on giving me things to think about that I had not known before. Thanks

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  7. Martina

    Thank you for the good blog post. I never really thought about this before in this way and I liked that you wrote this for us. Do you have a way to get emails from you?

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  8. Marjun

    Love the literary analysis of the poem! It gives me more reasons to live each day full of love, confidence and secured. What you are is something you need to be thankful about it. It doesn’t matter for as long you are doing what is right for the betterment of everybody. Congrats!

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  9. Pingback: Go Placidly You Are A Child Of The Universe Poem - Ehrmann

  10. Pingback: Desiderata Poem In Spanish, Poema En Español - Ehrmann

  11. Myriam

    This piece about the Desiderata poem is excellent. You certainly know how to keep your readers enthralled. I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.

    Too cool!

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  12. Pingback: Desiderata Poem French Translation, Poème en Français

  13. Mia

    Everything is very open with a really clear description of the poem. I had always wondered why this poem was written in the way it was. Many thanks for sharing your insights.

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  14. Quint

    Can I just say what a relief to find somebody who actually knows what they are discussing on the net. A lot more people ought to look at this and understand this side of your story. You surely have the gift for explaining complex topics in simple terms

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  15. Charles

    I am extremely impressed with your analysis of this Desiderata. I have heard of this poem and have read it in other places. But I have not seen it analyzed in this way before. Thank you.

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  16. Ola

    I loved this. I have been looking for a way to understand this poem. I love the way it sounds, but I wanted to really get it. And now I do thanks to your interpretation.

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  17. Marquita

    Its as if you read my mind and knew exactly what I was thinking. This is a terrific analysis of the Desiderata poem. Many thanks

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  18. Marsha

    First off I want to say superb blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you do not mind.

    I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing. I’ve had a difficult time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out.

    I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips?
    Cheers!

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      Michael

      Thank you Marsha. What I find works best for me is to sit down with some ideas on notecards. Then I begin writing in Word. After a few minutes I stop and look back through what I have written and spell check it. At this point I often let go of what I have written and then re-write it, sometimes adding new ideas and sometimes letting go of everything. As long as my intention is to write the perfect piece for this particular moment, I have no issue with letting already written ideas go because I know I will have plenty just when I need them.

  19. Claudia

    Very great post. I love this poem, interesting I stumbled upon your weblog and wished to mention that I’ve really loved browsing your blog posts. Thank you.

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  20. Tamika

    I found A Life of light really pretty much by accident when I was searching for information about the Desiderata poem. I really enjoyed how you analyzed the words and meaning.

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  21. Paul Kavanaugh

    “Desiderata” is by far, my favorite poem, creed or even a prayer! Being in the broadcasting industry as a broadcast engineer for years, I had the privilege of meeting Les Crane a few years after he recorded “Desiderata”. Your translation or interpretation of this reading is beautiful and understanding for all to read. I’ve often wondered perhaps though, if the late Paul Reid from CJAD in Montreal had read this, it probably would have been even a bigger success story then that of the two mentioned on your site (Les or Leonard), simply because to here his voice is fabulous. To perhaps hear his voice listen to ” To a sleeping beauty”, you all will be impressed if you haven’t heard his delivery or voice before! I’m entitled to say, he had one of the best voices in both radio or television that I”ve ever heard! His tone, inflection and delivery of various readings over the years was up at the top of the list with any of the best broadcasters in the industry! I’ve said what I feel had to shared with all and with that, keep up the great work on your web site.

    Regards,

    Paul Kavanaugh

  22. Dalton

    Thanks for another great article. I actually have a presentation next week where I will be talking about Desiderata and other pieces from the 60’s and 70’s. Do you by chance have a presentation on powerpoint slides that I might be able to use?

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