"Desiderata" (Latin: "desired things") is a 1927 prose poem by American writer Max Ehrmann. Largely unknown in the author's lifetime, the text became widely known after its use in a devotional, subsequently being found at Adlai Stevenson's deathbed in 1965, and after spoken-word recordings in 1971 and 1972.
American writer Max Ehrmann (1872–1945) wrote the prose poem "Desiderata" in 1927. In 1956, the Reverend Frederick Kates, rector of Saint Paul's Church in Baltimore, Maryland, included Desiderata in a compilation of devotional materials for his congregation. The compilation included the church's foundation date: "Old Saint Paul's Church, Baltimore A.D. 1692". Consequently, the date of the text's authorship was (and still is) widely mistaken as 1692, the year of the church's foundation.
When Adlai Stevenson died in 1965, a guest in his home found the Desiderata near his bedside and discovered that Stevenson had planned to use it in his Christmas cards. Subsequently, the poem became widely known.
The text was widely distributed in poster form. Calling it "Spock Thoughts", Leonard Nimoy recited the poem on his 1968 album, "Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy". This version also appeared on the 1995 re-release of "Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock's Music From Outer Space." His rendition is not the only one to change the second-to-last sentence from "Be Cheerful" to "Be Careful". In late 1971 and early 1972, Les Crane's spoken-word recording of Desiderata (the lead track on his 1971 Warner Bros. album Desiderata) peaked at #8 on the Billboard chart, #4 on the Canadian RPM Magazine chart, and #6 on the UK Melody Maker's chart. The makers of the record assumed that the poem was too old to be in copyright, but the publicity surrounding the record led to clarification of Ehrmann's authorship and his family eventually receiving royalties. The British band In the Nursery adapted the poem to music on its 1992 album Duality.
In August 1971 the poem was published in Success Unlimited magazine, again without authorization from Ehrmann's family. In a 1976 lawsuit against the magazine's publisher, Combined Registry Company, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that copyright had been forfeited because the poem had been authorized for publication without a copyright notice in the 1940s – and that the poem is therefore in the public domain.
In response to his Government's losing its majority in the Canadian federal election, 1972 Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau quoted the Desiderata by reassuring the nation that "the universe is unfolding as it should."
On August 26, 2010, a bronze statue of Ehrmann sitting on a park bench was unveiled in Terre Haute, Indiana, his hometown, with the sculpture done by Bill Wolfe. On a nearby walkway, some lines of the poem are also available to be read by passers-by.
- Deteriorata – National Lampoon's 1972 parody of Les Crane's 1971 spoken word recording.
- Wear Sunscreen – an essay written by columnist Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune, and made into a music single by Lee Perry and Quindon Tarver (and music video by Baz Luhrmann).
- "Oregon Dryrotta" - a parody by Wally Newman, written in the 1980s. It starts with "Go placidly amid the volcanic ash, and remember what peace there may be found in carpooling."
- Cavinder, Fred D. (August 1973). "Desiderata". TWA Ambassador. pp. 14–15. via Platt, Suzy, ed. (1993). Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. Library of Congress. Barnes & Noble. p. 212. Note that this reproduces Ehrmann's original, unformatted text; many later reproductions break it into lines of blank verse.
- "Les Crane – Desiderata". discogs.com. Retrieved 23 February 2013.
Warner Bros. Records BS 2570
- "Duality". Discogs.com.
- "Bell v. Combined Registry Co., 536 F.2d 164 (7th Cir., 1976)". United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. May 14, 1976.
- Boyce, Brian (August 27, 2010). "Max takes his seat at the Crossroads of America". Tribune-Star (Terre Haute, Indiana). Archived from the original on August 29, 2010. Retrieved 2012-12-31.