Daily Change

Can a Poem Change Your Life?

Poetry has the power to inspire, comfort, and provoke thought. But can a poem truly change your life? The answer may lie in the profound impact that certain poems have had on countless individuals. Desiderata by Max Ehrmann and “If” by Rudyard Kipling are two such examples that have transformed lives by providing wisdom, guidance, and solace.

Desiderata: A Guide for Life

Desiderata, which means “things that are desired” in Latin, is a prose poem written by Max Ehrmann in 1927. This timeless piece of literature provides practical advice for achieving a fulfilling and contented life. Its themes include the importance of inner peace, patience, humility, and compassion for others. With its simple yet profound words, Desiderata has resonated with readers across generations, offering a compass for navigating the complexities of life.

Some of the most notable lines from Desiderata include:

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.”

“Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.”

Many people have found solace and inspiration in the wisdom of Desiderata, using it as a guide to overcome challenges, maintain perspective, and cultivate inner peace.

Desiderata: Max Ehrmann 1927

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 the ignorant;
they too have their story.

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 your achievements as well as your plans.

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.

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.

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

You are a 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.

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

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

— Max Ehrmann, 1927

Kipling’s “If”: The Road to Resilience

Rudyard Kipling’s “If” is another poem that has the power to change lives. Written in 1895, this piece presents a set of virtues and values that encourage readers to embrace resilience, humility, and integrity. Through its powerful imagery and striking metaphors, “If” challenges readers to develop strength of character in the face of adversity.

Some memorable lines from Kipling’s “If” include:

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…”

“If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too…”

The poem concludes with the following lines, highlighting the ultimate reward for embracing these virtues:

“Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”

Countless individuals have turned to “If” for guidance and motivation, using its teachings to develop resilience and a strong moral compass.

If – By Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

The Transformative Power of Poetry

Both Desiderata and Kipling’s “If” serve as compelling examples of how poetry can change lives. These poems have not only provided solace during difficult times but also offered guidance for personal growth and self-improvement. The transformative power of poetry lies in its ability to encapsulate universal truths and human experiences in a way that resonates deeply with readers.

Through its unique combination of language, imagery, and emotion, poetry can inspire us to view the world differently, challenge our beliefs, and ultimately, change the course of our lives. Whether it is the wisdom of Desiderata or the resilience imparted by Kipling’s “If,” the impact of a poem can be both profound and enduring.

In conclusion, the power of poetry should never be underestimated. Desiderata and Kipling’s “If” demonstrate how a poem can change lives, offering wisdom, guidance, and inspiration that transcends time and place. As we continue to explore the rich landscape of poetry, we may yet discover more life-altering verses that speak to our hearts and minds, helping us to grow and evolve.

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