Desiderata Poem Summary & Line by Line Explanation in English ISC 11


In the poem, “Desiderata”, written by Max Ehrmann, the word ‘desiderata’ in Latin means things which are desired. This poem talks about the necessities of living a happy life and keeping others happy as well. One should keep to themselves, balance their career and personal life, attain all aspirations, block out the negativity and keep striving. 

Stanza 1

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. 

In the first stanza, the poet, talks to the reader through the poem, saying that one must go on their way,  placidly (peacefully) as that is beneficial for both the person and others. One should follow the famous proverb, speech is silver but silence is golden. One should keep to themselves and go on with their lives but not to forget being humble.

Just as one should be honest and speak your truth quietly and clearly, they should listen to what the others have to say. Even the dull and ignorant people deserve to be heard. Everyone should deal with their truths and at the same time listen to others, deciding themselves what to believe and follow in life. 

Stanza 2

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 you achievements as well as your plans. 

In the second stanza, the speaker asks the reader to avoid people who are unnecessarily loud and aggressive as they cause nothing but vexations (problems and uneasiness) to the spirit. One should avoid anyone or anything that cause pain to their spirit. The speaker then goes to say that each and every person is unique in their own way.

Hence it is futile (useless) to compare yourself with others as it will only make the person vain and bitter. There will always be someone in the world who will be greater and lesser persons than one. But one shouldn’t get bothered by this and continue to fulfill his or her dreams, achievements as well as your plans.

Stanza 3

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. 

In the third stanza, the speaker talks about the themes of self worth and self analysis. One should always be focused in his or her own career, no matter how humble it is. Being humble and being interested in your own career are the only things which matter in a time where fortunes keep changing. One should exercise caution (be smart and cautious) when it comes to managing their affairs as the world is nothing but a place to trick the innocent.

But at the end of this stanza, the speaker reminds the reader that though the world is full of bad people and trickery, that shouldn’t keep one from believing in his or her dreams and stray (divert) from the path of high ideals. Virtues still exist today, we just have to maintain our relationship with people efficiently. 

Stanza 4

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. 

In the fourth stanza, a very important message is said by the speaker which is to be yourself. One should always be true to oneself and to others. There is absolutely no need to feign (fake) affection nor be cynical (negative) about love. It is important to be real in an age of aridity and disenchantment, a time where everyone and everything is becoming fake and morbid.

Stanza 5

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 out of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, 
be gentle with yourself. 

In the fifth stanza, the speaker requests the readers to take the counsel of the years into consideration. Age is never kind to anyone, so one shouldn’t try to fight it. It is a natural concept. The speaker also spreads the message that one should not stress about dark imaginings.

It is very easy to become fearful and catch oneself in a world full of fatigue (tiredness) and loneliness. However, it is necessary to pass darkness in order to reach the light. Even if the world collapses around one, they shouldn’t forget to be kind to themselves as one learns through experience. 

Stanza 6

You are the 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. 

In the sixth stanza, the speaker assured the readers that they were born for a purpose as they are the child of the universe. Just as the trees and the stars have the right to be a part of this beautiful universe, all the readers too deserve to be here.

The poet goes on to say that though the reason for existence might be unknown or confusing, the universe is unfolding meaning the universe is working as it should to unravel the greater plan. One should follow the advice and strive to attain all their dreams as one day the reason for existence will become clear. 

Stanza 7

Therefore be at peace with God, 
whatever you conceive Him to be, 
and whatever your labors and aspirations, 
in the noisy confusion of like keep peace with your soul. 

In the seventh stanza, the speaker reminds the readers to be at peace with God. This stanza introduces the concept of happiness, peace and equality amongst oneself and others. God is universal and He is a part of everyone’s life. One should believe in God and keep peace with your soul. Strive to fulfil all goals amidst all noise and haste. 

Stanza 8

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, 
it is still a beautiful world. 
Be cheerful. 
Strive to be happy. 

In the final stanza, the speaker reminds the readers that despite all sham, drudgery and broken dreams, the world indeed is a beautiful place. One should overlook all the flaws and negativity and then only the beauty will be visible. The main motto of life should be to be cheerful and strive to be happy. One can attain everything if one remains cheerful and believe in oneself and remain true to everyone. 


Through this poem, Max wanted to spread the message of positivity and self confidence. He asks the readers to oversee the flaws and to stick to the good things in life. One should listen to others, if not trust them and keep on being real. Life is full of good and bad things but it depends upon the person whether they want to move ahead with life holding on to the good things or being buried in the past.