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 Post subject: The Legend of Desiderata
PostPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2005 9:30 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 21, 2004 10:43 pm
Posts: 10376
Location: Austin
A little background…

Almost every copy of Desiderata carries the claim that the original was found in Old Saint Paul's Church in Baltimore in 1692. It's comforting to believe that some truths are universal, that the beauty of the human spirit is unchanging, ever present, and inviolate. A poem rife with applicability in today's world being found in a church so many centuries ago supports those comforting beliefs. That it's an unsigned piece makes it all the more beautiful: one sees these inspirational words as the anonymous writer's gift to the world. His humility kept him from signing it . . . and maybe there's another lesson for us in that.

As pure heartedly meaningful as its words are, Desiderata's history doesn't quite match up with the fable built around it. The poem wasn't penned by one of our nameless ancestors many centuries ago; it was written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann (1872-1945). This selfless writer of many centuries ago was actually a lawyer from Terre Haute, Indiana. Like most of Ehrmann's writings, Desiderata failed to attract much attention during his lifetime; three years after his death, his widow had it and some of his other works published as The Poems of Max Ehrmann.

Confusion over Desiderata's authorship arose in 1956 when a Maryland pastor used the poem in a collection of mimeographed material for the congregation of Old St. Paul's Church in Baltimore. He'd been fond of essays and poems of an inspirational nature, and it was often his practice to mimeograph writings he liked, form them into booklets, and place them in pews around the church. The Desiderata booklet was printed on letterhead emblazoned "Old St. Paul's Church, Baltimore, A.D. 1692" (the year of the church's founding).

Some member of that congregation must have liked the poem well enough to pass along to a friend. From there it passed through many hands, along the way losing the attribution to Max Ehrmann and gaining -- through a muddling of the letterhead's message -- the claim that the work itself had been discovered in Old St. Paul's church in 1692.

The poem then found a foothold in California, where San Francisco's "flower children" embraced it delightedly as a centuries-old affirmation of their philosophy of love and peace. From there it spread as underground printers, thinking they were dealing with a work in the public domain, started cranking out inexpensive posters.

The piece hit a new level of popularity after a copy was found on Adlai Stevenson's bedside table when he died in 1965. He'd been intending to use the "ancient" poem in his Christmas cards.

The spoken version of Desiderata earned a Grammy award for Les Crane in 1971. Like many others, he'd seen the words on a poster and mistakenly thought them to be in the public domain. That error cost him -- he was later forced to share the royalties with the late Ehrmann's family. (Ehrmann's original 1927 copyright was renewed in 1954 by Bertha Ehrmann, and is now held by Robert L. Bell of Sarasota, Florida.) It seems Crane had failed to heed the poem's exhortation to "exercise caution in your business affairs."

Source: http://www.snopes.com/language/document/desidera.htm



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Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!
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 Post subject: The legend of Desiderata
PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2005 2:38 am 
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Joined: Tue Mar 08, 2005 10:14 pm
Posts: 6552
Location: australia
Thanks DITHOT :cool: .I remember the record that came out and I have to be honest,I didn't like his rendition of it. :-O Put me off it really.The beauty of the words didn't really come through.It was only many years later that I came to it with a different perspective. :cloud9:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2005 9:24 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 21, 2004 10:43 pm
Posts: 10376
Location: Austin
I have never heard the record, that I remember anyway... :-? I looked but couldn't find an online link either.



_________________________________________________________
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!
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