#36: Desiderata: Les Crane: 1971
The closing lines of my previous blog gave away which song this blog was going to be about. Desiderata, the poem written by Max Ehrmann and put to music by Les Crane in his 1971 album of the same name is an absolute favourite of mine.
Firstly a little about the poet. Max Ehrmann was an American poet, author and legal attorney. He was born in 1872, of German parentage, and is well known for his prose poem, Desiderata, which is Latin for “things desired.” The poem is believed to have been written sometime in the early 1920s but received recognised copyright in 1927.
During the 1960s the poem was thought to be of much older origin due to a small oversight of clarity by a clergy man and a misunderstanding by his congregation. The rector of St. Paul’s Church in Baltimore, Maryland, had used the poem as part of a collection of devotional materials for his congregation. At the top of this handout were the words, “Old St Paul’s Church, Baltimore A.C. 1692′ which was the year in which the church building was built. Since the poem did not have a clear assignation to an author, it was erroneously concluded that this piece of poetry was written by an unknown author in the year 1692.
This myth was perpetuated throughout the 60s with the poem becoming part of hippie, make peace not war culture which promoted and widely circulated this piece of poetic prose. In 1971 when Les Crane came to record the poem as a spoken word track on his Desiderata album he thought the poem would be too old to come under copyright law. Ehrmann had passed away in 1945 but the publicity surrounding the record when released finally lead to the recognition that he indeed was its true author.
There was a time, quite a long time in fact, that I could recite this poem word for word. It is rich in timeless wisdom and still holds a very special spot in my heart. It was of particular comfort when my mother passed away and I suddenly realised I had not had nearly enough “mothering”. Over the years I have tried to remember to Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there is in silence… and to be at peace with God, the God of heaven so that in the noisy confusion of life I can keep peace with my soul. It is one of the songs I want played at my funeral. I hope you will enjoy it. And by the way, please google Max Ehrmann and check out his poetry.