Desiderata

Licensing Information

First posted 6 Mar 98
Modified 21 Jan 99

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

--Max Ehrmann

not found in Old St. Paul's Church, Baltimore
not dated 1692

The much beloved poem "Desiderata" was written (and copyrighted) in 1927 by Max Ehrmann (1872-1945) of Terre Haute, Indiana. His widow Bertha K. Ehrmann renewed the copyright in 1954; it is still valid.

Books containing "Desiderata" are published by Crown Publishers and are available through your local bookstore.

Permission for any and all other uses must be obtained by contacting Robert L. Bell, 427 So. Shore Drive, Sarasota FL 34234 (USA).


More on the origins of Desiderata

Barbara J. Katz of the "Washington Post" tracked down conflicting stories of "Desiderata"s origin ("Washington Post, "Metro" [local] news section, Sun 27 Nov 1977). The following information is extracted from her article, but any mistakes or awkward writing are my fault, not hers.

Max Ehrmann, born in Terre Haute IN in 1872, made his living practicing law and business. His real love, however, was writing, especially philosophical poems and plays.

"Desiderata," like his other works, did not attract much notice during his lifetime. Three years after his death in 1945, his widow tried to publicize "Desiderata," including it in a book "The Poems of Max Ehrmann."

In the late 1950s, Rev. Frederick Ward Kates, rector of Old St. Paul's Church in Baltimore MD, was in the habit of mimeographing inspirational essays and poems, and putting them in the pews of his church. One year, Rev. Kates saw "Desiderata," probably in a magazine, and mimeographed it under the usual letterhead, "Old Saint Paul's Church, Baltimore, A.D. 1692," the year of the church's founding. As copies passed from hand to hand, and were even reprinted, the significance of the "Old St. Paul's Church" letterhead became confused.

By the 1960s, "Desiderata" had found its way to San Francisco "flower children," who embraced it as a supposedly centuries-old affirmation of love and peace. Low-budget printers eagerly ran off posters of what looked like a public-domain best seller. In 1965, after Adlai Stevenson's death, it became known he had intended to use it on his Christmas cards.

Since then, it has spread around the world, translated into numerous languages.

    Italicized portions ("Desiderata") copyright 1927 by Max Ehrmann.
    Permission by Robert L. Bell

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