What is a detailed analysis of the poem "Desiderata" by Max Ehrmann?

Expert Answers info

Lorna Stowers eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write4,625 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

A literary analysis of a poem asks the reader to examine the title, mood, and writing within a specific poem.

The title of Max Ehrmann's poem "Desiderata" originates from the Latin for "something desired." One could look at the title as a direct reference to things actually desired or as Ehrmann naming the one to whom he is speaking to as Desiderata. One could argue this by stating that Ehrmann opens the poem by offering suggestions on how the focus of his poem, Desiderata, should move through life: "Go placidly through amid the noise and haste." The poet also uses the pronoun "you" repeatedly throughout the poem; this also speaks to the idea that the poet is speaking directly to Desiderata. That said, one could also argue that the poet is speaking to the reader directly, as one who desires something. Also by using the pronoun "you," the other argument could be grounded in the idea that we, as readers, are Ehrmann's subjects. He wishes to teach us something about moving through life.

The mood of the poem is optimistic and positive. The poem's mood is defined by examining the poet's word choice. While some words within the poem are negative, these words are only used to illustrate how one should focus upon the positive. With this focus on the positive, one is able to be optimistic in life.

In regards to the writing, one should focus upon the simplicity of the poetic line. Each line offers the reader, or Desiderata, a moment of insight into the world around himself or herself. The lines do not possess any rhyme, and they exist more as symbiotic pieces of advice which will (hopefully) help the reader live a better life. Some of the shorter lines offer the most promising advice: "Be yourself," "Be cheerful," "Strive to be happy."

Overall, the poem speaks to the idea that readers must ignore the negatives in life to ensure that they live positive and impactful lives.

It is my hope that this explanation allows you to construct your own literary analysis based upon the information I have provided for you.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial