Thursday, 31 March 2011

31.03. Desiderata

Hello, it is the last day of this month and I am in a bit of a philosophical mood. I could make a post about the weather and the lack of rain we have experienced the last month, but having in mind how much I have talked about the weather lately I probably shouldn’t. Or, I could talk about my garden; I never grow tired about that topic! But...I thought I should spare you that tonight, just for tonight. What I have in mind is actually to talk about a poem. A poem! No, I haven’t gone mad, for those of you that know me and now wonder whether something really hard has struck my head today I can assure you that I am perfectly fine, safe and sound. I know I am not exactly famous for being a poetry lover....rather the opposite perhaps, but sometimes I read things that are said so well that I just have to keep it for....well, for a rainy day, for example? It didn’t rain today, wish it did, but I am going to share a well written kind of a poem with you, since I am in this philosophical mood tonight.

The poem is called Desiderata. Have you heard about it? It is frequently being distributed around the Internet, often wrongly being said to have been written in 1692 although it was actually written in 1927 by a lawyer named Max Hermann. I’ll let you read the poem first, and then give you the rest of the story.


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 the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexatious to the spirit.

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

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own 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.

Be yourself.
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.

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 dark 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 cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Hmmm...well said, isn’t it? And it will probably never be out of date either; these words are just as relevant today in 2011 as they must have been back in 1927 when this poem was written.  When someone first gave me this, printed on a piece of paper with some medieval decoration around it, and with the year 1692 right under the poem - I read it once, and then once again...and then I took it home and went on the Internet and found out why the year didn’t make sense. If it had been written in 1692 the language would have been very different; this has a very modern language. Anyway, the story of why the confusion about when it was written is quite interesting:

Adlai Stevenson was the presidential candidate who lost to Eisenhower. When Stevenson died in 1965, the story is that among his belongings were found this poem Desiderata that he had planned to include in his Christmas cards for that year. Before Adlai Stevenson got hold of the poem it had been used in an inspirational pamphlet handed out at St. Paul’s Church in Baltimore.  The pamphlet had not given credit to the original poet but had included St. Paul’s name and the date when the built was started, 1692. In the 1960s, the poem was widely circulated with the claim that it had been found in Baltimore, Maryland's Saint Paul's Church, and that it had been written by an anonymous author in 1692, the year of the founding of Saint Paul's. The publicity that followed lent widespread fame to the poem, and to the poem's connection with Saint Paul's Church of Baltimore.

In late 1971 and early 1972, Les Crane's spoken-word recording of Desiderata was a major hit in the United States and Great Britain. The makers of the record assumed, as had many others, that the poem was very old and in the public domain, but publicity surrounding the record led to clarification of Ehrmann's authorship, and his family eventually received royalties.

In response to his Government falling to only a minority rule in the federal election of 1972, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau quoted the Desiderata by reassuring the nation that "the universe is unfolding as it should."

So, what do Desiderata mean? For all of us that aren’t overly familiar with Latin....well, you can actually have a guess, as desiderata come from “desideratum” which means “something desired as a necessity” or “something lacked and wanted “ depending on which dictionary you ask. Desiderata is the plural form and means “things that are wanted” ...or desired, if you like. And when I say you can have a guess, I mean because you can actually find the word “desire” inside the word, if you look closely :-)

And finally, Desiderata was one of four daughters of Desiderius, king of the Lombards, and his queen, Ansa. She was married to Charlemagne, king of the Franks, in 770, probably to form a bond between the otherwise enemy states of Francia and Lombardy. The marriage was annulled in 771 and this hurt relations with Lombardy, presaging the war of 774. She had no children and her ultimate fate is unknown.

Never cease to amaze me what one can find on the Internet with a bit of time and patience :-)

As you probably have noticed, there hasn’t been any photos in this post so far – this topic wasn’t very well planned so I didn’t have any suitable pictures ready – not that I know, at the top of my head, what kind of pictures I should have provided with tonight’s topic..... not sure of that one, no. So as you can see, my cat is stand-in again! This picture was taken last night when he was lying in my lap, so the light isn’t that great – but the expression on his face is very him. Rather docile!  

That’s it for tonight folks, got to find something to eat and then I think I need to locate my bed. Tomorrow’s going to be a glorious day with over 20 degrees and nice sunshine most of the day. I intend to spend it partly in my garden and partly next door. If you have been visiting my blog regularly, you will know what I am doing “next door”, an update with photos will be coming here as soon as I’ve got time. See you next time, take care.

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