‘Desiderata’ is a Latin term to mean ‘desired things’ — something that is needed or wanted. Max Ehrmann’s poem with this title deals with the desired qualities in a man. The didactic poem offers a code for life. It is full of wise sayings and gentle guidance. The reader is urged to find peace within themselves, and project this inner peace in their dealings with the world. The poem endorses an attitude to accept the world in all its entirety, with all its contrasts.
Staying calm amidst this loud and fast world, being ‘in good terms with all persons’, expressing our thoughts quietly and clearly, listening to others, avoiding loud and aggressive persons, being content with who you are without comparing to others, enjoying your achievements, keeping interest in what you do, being cautious in business matters, being true to one’s heart, believing in the power of love, learning from own and others’ past experiences, avoiding unnecessary fears, being wholesome in discipline, realizing the vastness and uncontrollable workings of the universe, keeping faith in God, finding beauty amidst this otherwise horrible world and striving to be happy — these are quite a few things that the poet desires in every human being, if he has to lead a happy and peaceful life on earth.
The entire poem is nothing but some advice as to what we should do and what we should not to make this life a success. Therefore, thematically the title ‘Desiderata’ or ‘desired things’ is just and apt.