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DESIDERATA

Information about  Desiderata
as given to me by the St.Pauls Cathedral parish in Baltimore Oct. 89

Someday I came over the  Desiderata and liked it at first sight. It became a guideline to my life as may have happened to many other people. So, years later when I planned a trip through the East of the USA it was a must to visit Saint Paulīs Church, Baltimore. I hoped to find something spectacular there, so I was very dissapointed when the church was closed on our arrival. I put a letter into the mailbox and left. Returned to New York a week later I found a letter from the parish that gave me the Info Iīm passing to you below.

  St.Pauls Cathedral, Baltimore
(Saint Paulsīs Parish, 309 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21201)

If you have an opportunity to visit Baltimore - have a look at the church and enjoy the near inner harbour sightseeing.

   Map of Baltimore

  The family (momīs taking the shot / Oct.89)


  1. The Poem that inspired a Masterpiece - The Sunday Sun Magazin 1968
  2. Form letter of Saint Paulīs Parish, Oct.89
  3. Excerpt: The Misplaced Masterpiece
  4. The Washington Post 11-27-1977.
  5. Friends of Max Ehrmann, Links
  6. -> The Poem is not included due to copyright questions that have to be sorted out <-

When I started to search the Internet for other friends of Desiderata I found much information and many different versions of the poem. Some funny, some dumb, but mostly shown in a way that reflects the good inspiration to us. Let me give you a few links, but - as I think - some of the most informative and interesting ones. The others have done well too, though. ;-)

For years I keep this homepage now without including the poem itself. As it seems that it's in the public domain now, I put it into this page too.

Useful Links:

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1. The Poem that inspired a Masterpiece

The Baltimore Prayer was written in 1927, not 1692
      By Ralph Reppert, The Sunday Sun Magazin 1968

A Poem found in Old St. Paulīs Church in Baltimore has become a familiar and inspiring credo displayed throughout the English speaking world, and day by day its popularity grows.

The poem is "Desiderata," which translates from the latin to "Things to be desired." Almost every reproduction of the message carries the identifying line: "FOUND IN OLD SAINT PAULīS CHURCH, BALTIMORE. DATED 1692." Because of this, the poem is being referred  to more and more as "The Baltimore Prayer."

Poster companies print the credo in many shapes and sizes, with a wide variety of illustrations and typography. Columnists in numerous papers have printed it. One syndicated writer whose readers are principally teen-agers devoted a column to it as a shining beacon for her readers.
It has been read on radio and television programs, printed on christmas cards, reproduced in house organs and included in anthologies.

"Desiderata" seems to appeal to all people. Framed copies hang in the studies of ministers and college professors, in waiting rooms and in the offices of business executives. It is also a best seller in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco, where the hippies buy it printed on imitation parchment and tack it up unframed. A Baltimore bookstore at Park avenue and Mulberry street carries reproductions in two different sizes and styles, printed by two different poster companies.

Following the death of Adlai Stevenson in 1965, a book found on his bedside table was opened to the poem, which bore the familiar St. Paulīs, Baltimore, credit line. Questioning the ambassadorīs secretarial staff, reporters learned, he had been fond of the inspirational message and had planned to use it on his Christmas cards.
Friends later had the cards printed, and distributed them as Stevenson mementos.

Questions about it began cropping up.
The words had a familiar ring to many, but they escaped immediate identification.

A Baltimore authority on early English literature said, "This work, as it reads now, was not written in 1692. The words are not those of the Seventeenth Century, nor is it the composition."
In its January, 1966, issue, Together, a national United Methodist magazine, featured on its cover a reproduction of "Desiderata" inscribed on parchment with the credit "FOUND IN OLD SAINT PAULīS ANGLICAN CHURCH, BALTIMORE. DATED 1692."
Later the editor described the mail response as "an explosion of letters."

Literary detectives went to work on "Desiderata," and soon its true story was slowly revealed. It was written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann, a Terre Haute, Ind., poet, author and lawyer.
Mr. Ehrmann, who was born in 1872, entered Harvardīs School of Philosophy at the age of 22. He studied philosophy and law, spent ten years writing six books and finally, when he realized he could not make a living as a writer, began practicing law. Later he became deputy prosecuting attorney in Terre Haute.

He died in 1945. Three years later his widow included "Desiderata" in "The poems of Max Ehrmann," published in 1948 by the Bruce Humphries Publishing Company, of Boston, which is still publishing it in a $ 4.50 edition.

With the poemīs age and authorship established, questions still remained. Why the 1692 date, and why the St. Paulīs, Baltimore, credit line?
The Rev. Halsey Cook, rector of Old St.Paulīs, told inquirers that no literary work of any kind could have possibly have been found in St. Paulīs Church in Baltimore in 1692, because the church did not then exist. St. Paulīs parish was established in 1692, but its first crude log church was not erected until the following year.
Another letter from a reader of Together gave more information. Mrs. Florimonde Reed, of Baltimore, wrote to say "Desiderata" appeared in "Between Dawn and Dark," a booklet compiled by the Rev. Frederick Ward Kates, who had been rector of Old St. Paulīs from 1956 to 1961. In this, the poem was credited to Max Ehrmann. Mr. Kates, who had become rector of St. Lukeīs Church in Dallas, told the rest of the story.
Mr. Kates, a former newspaper man, enjoyed collecting and anthologizing inspirational essays, poems and quotations. From time to time, especially during Lent, he used them in mimeographed booklets, which he scattered about the church for parishioners to take home.
Immediately, he recalled having used "Desiderata" in such a booklet, probably in 1956, although a copy of it cannot now be found. Apperently the credo was used on the front page of the booklet, for the mimeographed editions always carried on their covers the name of the church and the date the parish was founded, "OLD SAINT PAULīS CHURCH, BALTIMORE. 1692."
The rest of the story is conjecture, but it is strong conjecture.

A parishioner must have carried a booklet from the church in his pocket and later felt impressed enough by "Desiderata" to have it reproduced. And in its first reproduction, the printer gave it the misleading credit line.
It would seem apparent that almost all subsequent reproductions have stemmed from that first copying, for almost all of them perpetrate the error of the credit line.

Staff members at Old St. Paulīs recall that early queries on the poem came from England, and later from New Zealand and Australia, and subsequently from each of the United States. An averadge of half a dozen queries continue to come in every week.
To answer these the church sends a form letter giving the basic facts about "Desiderata," where the inquirer must write for copyright permission, and concluding, "The date of 1692 refers to the founding of St.Paulīs Parish. It is in no way connected with the poem."
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2. Form letter of Saint Paulīs Parish, Oct.89

..... The present owner of the copyright has asked us to refer all inquiries to:
Mr. Robert L. Melrose, 669 Main Street, Melrose, Massachusetts 02176, Tel. (617) 665-4998
....
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3. Excerpt: The Misplaced Masterpiece

Few people seem to know who wrote it - or when
       by Sam McGarrity, Guideposts Associate Editor

Desiderata - a poetic formula for happiness, a gentle urging to be at peace with God and with life - is known and loved the world over for its words of reaasurance. Its message, heralded on posters and plaques hanging in homes and over desks, has comforted and inspired millions  of people. Television audiences have heard it from the lips of Ali McGraw, Jonny Cash and Joan Crawford. Ann Landersīreaders have found it in her column.

Itīs been printed in Readerīs Digest, Good Housekeeping and New Woman. and in the sixties hippies passed it out on street corners. In 1972, it was recorded as a narrative song that sold more than a million copies. Itīs been recited at weddings and funerals, and just before his death, Adlai Stevenson had planned to use it as his Christmas greeting.

The wealthy, the poor, the famous and the infamous have used Desiderata as a guide in changing their lives for the better. Affluent attorneys attest to this. So do ex-convicts and ex-drug addicts. It has been used in drug rehabilitation programs. It has been shared in schoolrooms, in courtrooms. Thereīs even a woman on Park Avenue in New York who has it printed on her hostess apron.

Yet, in spite of the fame of Desiderata, few people seem to know the true story of its origins. In fact, many people think, mistakenly, that it was written in the 17th century and inscribed on a wall at St.Paulīs Episcopal Church in Baltimore. How surprised they are to learn that it was actually written in 1927 by a stocky, middle-aged, Indiana attorney named Max Ehrmann.

The confusion began one Sunday in the late-fifties. The Reverend Frederick Ward Kates, then rector of St.Paulīs, liked to distribute copies of inspirational pieces to his parishioners. That particular Sunday he placed Desiderata in the pews; it was printed on the churchīs letterhead, which contained the churchīs date of founding: 1692.

It is thought, that the mimeographed copies passed from hand to hand until it landed on the desk of an editor. Seeing the date 1692, the editor assumed the piece was in the public domain, had Desiderata printed up, stuck the name of the church and the date underneath, and so began a massive theft of a copyrighted, contemporary work.

This created a costly and frustrating predicament for Robert L. Bell of Melrose, Massachusetts, who in 1967 acquired the copyright to Desiderata at great financial risk. "At the time," recalls Bell,"I was president of Bruce Humphries, a publishing company that was starving for lack of capital, which owned the publishing rights to  Desiderata and which owed me $16.000 in back salary. I was having an incredible struggle trying to support my wife and four children, one of whom was in college.

"I owned loans against Bruce Humphries and, in a court procedure, agreed to relinquish my liens in exchange for the publishing rights to  Desiderata. Then I took every cent Ihad and bought the copyright from Richmond Wight, nephew and heir to the Ehrmann works.
.....
(here ends the text I got).
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4. Article from the Washington Post, 27-11-1977

This article is quite old, but gives you a lot of information about WHO, HOW and WHEN:

Read Barbara Katz: "Desiderata": a Product Of an Obscure Lawyer


5. Friends of Max Ehrmann, Links

http://www.wvu.edu/~lawfac/jelkins/lp-2001/ehrmann.html


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last updated: 19-October-2004