I first became interested in W.H. Davies (1871-1940), the author of The Autobiography of a Supertramp, when I was writing a blog entry on his poem which begins, “What is this life if, full of care,we have no time to stand and stare?”. You can read this most relaxed of poems and the blog entry here.
While scratching around to find some information about the man behind the poem, I was interested enough by what I read of his personality and life to want to read his autobiography. Even the title of it sounds quite modern and inviting to a twenty-first century reader, despite being written in the very early years of the twentieth century. Interestingly, much of the book also reads like something written more recently.
Back in the nineteen-seventies many people had a kind of little chart on the wall with some very popular words written on it. At the bottom of the words was a note saying that this prose poem had been found in a Baltimore church in 1692. It transpires that this was a lie.
The “Desiderata”, as the poem was titled, was actually written in about 1920 by American poet Max Ehrmann. In 1971 Les Crane’s recording of it resulted in a number 6 hit in the UK pop music charts. This uneasy mix of pious speaking with a background of cheesy singing is quite painful to listen to these days, but I’m quite fond of the version on the film above.
The words aren’t particularly religious, but they are quietly comforting and inspiring in a common sense kind of way. Fractions of the words are eminently quotable and memorable. For that reason, I decided to post the poem here:Continue reading