Some things said well have the misfortune to become overexposed and then considered as cliches because of it. A connotation is assigned to them which conveys contempt. Desiderata does not deserve that. The link to GoodReads.com says it well: “…what it says remains timeless and reserves for its author a niche in that poetical pantheon to which belong those writers who have, at least once, seen an eternal truth clear.”
I read it over and over and am always filled with its perfection and completeness.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and 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 and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your 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.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as 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 and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
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.
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. Be careful. Strive to be happy.
© Max Ehrmann 1927
NOTE: Also, contrary to what is stated at GoodReads, the work is not protected by US copyright law and is available in the public realm. In the late 1970’s the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit determined 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.