Navigating the Maze

This is the final poem in our joint book Deciphering the Maze

After Max Ehrmann’s ‘Desiderata’

‘Desiderata’ is a famous prose-poem, which for much of the Twentieth Century was popularly thought to be a devotional poem dating from 1692 from a church in Baltimore, Maryland, in the United States. I saw its opening sentence in a friend’s house, in the lavatory. This was in the 1960’s and, because of its opening sentence, I thought it was a joke:

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. (Read the complete text of Desiderata)

Later, I found a copy of the whole poem as a poster, and gave it to my parents. They treated it with religious reverence. Although not religious, I hold it in the same high regard and it has greatly influenced my philosophy of life.

Only recently I discovered from my brother-in-law that ‘Desiderata’ (‘things wanted or needed’) was written in 1925 by Max Ehrmann (1872-1945), and eventually published in a collected book of his poetry: The Desiderata of Happiness (1974). More recently, when challenged by Rona Laycock in her writing class to write a sonnet, I chose to write this, which was then published in Graffiti magazine in 2013.

Desiderata for the 21st Century
Walk placidly amid life’s noisy squalls;
remember, silent thought serves as a balm.
Without surrender, seek good terms with all
and speak your personal truth with soothing calm.
Keep humble focus on your own career—
whether high or low it’s your possession.
Love is the way to keep your life in gear.
True love-knots tie with never-feigned affection.
Don’t doubt what you can touch, or hear, or see,
or let fear grow when you’re alone or blue.
Like trees and stars, you have the right to be,
so keep your personal view of God with you.
Our world hurls nightmares while its beauty gleams.
Choose wisely, and embrace your happy dreams.

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