"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 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 US Democratic presidential hopeful 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. This contributed further to the poem becoming 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. It made #4 on the Australian singles chart in 1971. The producers of Crane's recording 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 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.
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 court ruled (and subsequently the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld) 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.
- Deteriorata – National Lampoon's 1972 parody of Les Crane's 1971 spoken word recording.
- "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."
- "Gamers' Desiderata" – An adaptation from 2001: "Go placidly amid the smoke and carnage..."
- 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).
- Love Serenade - the poem is quoted a few times in this Australian movie comedy.
- It was used in The Professionals, Episode 5, Serie 5 - "Discovered in Graveyard". In this movie (16:07min) Cowley reads a poster in Ray Doyles apartment, which contains a part of this poem.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 - In the episode 'Catalina Caper,' Joel and the 'Bots lightly mangle a quote from the Desiderata by stating, "Let's see... You are a child, no less than the trees..." At the very end of the episode 'Mitchell,' Tom Servo notes that he thought Joel would have quoted something more profound on the talking plaque he left behind... "...even the Desiderata..." And again the Desiderata was quoted by Joel and the 'Bots in the MST3K episode 'Cave Dwellers': "...you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees..."
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- 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.
- 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.
- This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document ", Catalog of Copyright Entries, 1927 Pamphlets, Dramatic Compositions And Maps New Series Vol 24 Part 1 (1927)" by Library of Congress Copyright Office (retrieved on 18 August 2013).
- This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document ", Copyright Renewal Database Long Record R127188" by Stanford University Copyright Renewal Database (retrieved on 18 August 2013).
- Bell v. Combined Registry Company, 397 F. Supp. 1241, No. 72 C 1819 (Dist. Court, ND Illinois 1975) (“...the court finds that the author and copyright proprietor, Max Ehrmann, both abandoned and forfeited the copyright in Desiderata.”).
- Bell v. Combined Registry Co., 536 F. 2d 164, No. 75-1753 (Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit 1976) (“The judgment appealed from is AFFIRMED.”).
- "Bell v. Combined Registry Co., 536 F.2d 164 (7th Cir., 1976)". United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. May 14, 1976.
- "Southern Oregon Historical Society Library - Maps, Plans & Posters Collection" (poster). D16F02,42 ID#62703. SOHistory.org. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
- "Gamers' Desiderata". Retrieved 20 October 2013.