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need a good poem for speech
Posted by: Katrina (
Date: December 01, 2003 08:28PM

I'm in speech and I need a good, dramatic poem about 6 minutes long. Any ideas? Thanks.

Re: need a good poem for speech
Posted by: Jean-Paul (205.233.28.---)
Date: December 01, 2003 08:32PM

How about a portion from "The Song of Solomon"

"I "Love Summer more than I hate Winter"

Re: need a good poem for speech
Posted by: -Les- (
Date: December 01, 2003 09:59PM

If you spend 3 minutes introducing the poem, by saying that the author was a man who was about to die. One who spent months in a hospital and was about to spend another year, or two, you might use this. The time spent on the poem is not as important as the set-up and the follow-through.


OUT of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William E. Henley

Re: need a good poem for speech
Posted by: rikki (
Date: December 02, 2003 01:43AM

A.D. Hope wrote some great dramatic poems, like this one:

Advice to Young Ladies

A.U.C. 334 : About this date
For a sexual misdemeanor, which she denied,
The vestal virgin Postumia was tried;
Livy records it among affairs of state.

They let her off: it seems she was perfectly pure;
The charge arose because some thought her talk
Too witty for a young girl, her eyes, her walk
Too lively, her clothes too smart to be demure.

The Pontifex Maximus, summing up the case,
Warned her in future to abstain from jokes,
To wear less modish and more pious frocks.
She left the court reprieved, but in disgrace.

What then? With her the annalist is less
Concerned than what the men achieved that year:
Plots, quarrels, crimes, with oratory to spare!
I see Postumia with her dowdy dress,

Stiff mouth and listless step; I see her strive
To give dull answers. She had to knuckle down.
A vestal virgin who scandalized that town
Had fair trial, then they buried her alive;

Alive, bricked up in suffocating dark,
A ration of bread, a pitcher if she was dry,
Preserved the body they did not wish to die
Until her mind was quenched to the last spark.

How many the black maw has swallowed in its time!
Spirited girls who would not know their place;
Talented girls who found that the disgrace
Of being a woman made genius a crime.

How many others, who would not kiss the rod,
Domestic bullying broke or public shame?
Pagan or Christian, it was much the same:
Husbands, St. Paul declared, rank next to God.

Livy and Paul, it may be, never knew
That Rome was doomed; each spoke of her with pride.
Tacitus, writing after both had died,
Showed that whole fabric rotten, through and through.

Historians spend their lives and lavish ink
Explaining how great commonwealths collapse
From great defects of policy -- perhaps
The cause is sometimes simpler than they think.

It may not seem so grave an act to break
Postumia's spirit as Galileo's, to gag
Hypatia as crush Socrates, or drag
Joan as Giordano Bruno to the stake.

Can we be sure? Have more states perished, then,
For having shackled the inquiring mind,
Than whose who, in their folly not less blind,
Trusted the servile womb to breed free men?


or you can find his poem 'The Coasts of Cerigo' about the legendary Labra here (scroll right down to the end of the thread) -


Re: need a good poem for speech
Posted by: StephenFryer (
Date: December 02, 2003 02:26AM

Thanks, rikki - a new poem on me, and truly telling.

I didn't understand the reference to Giordano Bruno though - who was he?


Re: need a good poem for speech
Posted by: rikki (
Date: December 02, 2003 02:49AM

Stephen, I had to look this one up too - apparently Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in 1600 for theological and scientific heresies, like Joan of Arc who suffered the same fate in 1431 for heresy and sorcery.

Re: need a good poem for speech
Posted by: marian2 (
Date: December 02, 2003 04:52AM

I don't know if this sort of thing makes you nervous, but if you are, you might want to find something you find comfortable to say in terms of rhythm and vocabulary used - my two stand- bys about that length were Tennyson's Lady of Shallott and Charles Causley's Death of an Aircraft - both seem to roll off my tongue better than other poems, but it's a highly personal thing; there are some fantastic dramatic poems that are real tongue-twisters.


One day in our village in the month of July
An aeroplane sank from the sea of the sky,
White as a whale it smashed on the shore
Bleeding oil and petrol all over the floor.

The Germans advanced in the vertical heat
To save the dead plane from the people of Crete,
And round the glass wreck in a circus of snow
Set seven mechanical sentries to go.

Seven stalking spiders about the sharp sun
Clicking like clockwork and each with a gun
But at ‘Come to the Cookhouse’ they all wheeled about
And sat down to sausages and sauerkraut.

Down from the mountain burning so brown
Wriggled three heroes from Kastelo town
Deep in the sand they silently sank
And each struck a match for a petrol tank.

Up went the plane in a feather of fire
As the bubbling boys began to retire
And, grey in the guardhouse, seven Berliners
Lost their stripes as well as their dinners.

Down in the village, at murder-stations,
The Germans fell in friends and relations:
But not a Kastelian snapped an eye
As he spat in the eye and prepared to die.

Not a Kastelian whispered a word
Dressed with the dust to be massacred,
And squinted up in the sky with a frown
As three bubbly boys came walking down.

One was sent to the county gaol
Too young for bullets if not for bail,
But the other two were in prime condition
To take on a load of ammunition.

In Archonti they stood in the weather
Naked, hungry, chained together;
Stark as the stones in the market-place,
Under the eyes of the populace.

Their irons unlocked as their naked hearts
They faced the squad and their funeral –carts.
The Captain cried, ‘Before you’re away
Is there any last word you’d like to say?’

‘I want no words’, said one ‘with my lead,
Only some water to cool my head’.
‘Water’, the other said ‘ ‘s all very fine
But I’ll be taking a glass of wine.

‘A glass of wine for the afternoon
With permission to sing a signature tune!’
And he ran the raki down this throat
And took a deep breath for the leading note.

But before the squad could shoot or stay
Like the impala he leapt away
Over the rifles, under the biers,
The bullets rattling round his ears.

‘Run’, they cried to the boy of stone
Who now stood there in the street alone,
But, ‘Rather than bring revenge on your head
It is better for me to die’, he said.

The soldiers turned their machine guns round
And shot him down with a dreadful sound
Scrubbed his face with perpetual dark
And rubbed it out like a pencil mark.

But his comrade slept in the olive tree
And sailed by night on the gnawing sea,
The soldier’s silver shilling earned,
And, armed like an archangel, returned.

THE LADY OF SHALLOTT By Alfred, Lord Tennyson


On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro' the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four gray walls, and four gray towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow veil'd,
Slide the heavy barges trail'd
By slow horses; and unhail'd
The shallop flitteth silken-sail'd
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early
In among the bearded barley,
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly,
Down to tower'd Camelot:
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers " 'Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott."


There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving thro' a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot:
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village-churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls,
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad,
Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad,
Goes by to tower'd Camelot;
And sometimes thro' the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often thro' the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed:
"I am half sick of shadows," said
The Lady of Shalott.


A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter'd free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazon'd baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armour rung,
Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn'd like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro' the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow'd
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash'd into the crystal mirror,
"Tirra lirra," by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces thro' the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.


In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining,
Heavily the low sky raining
Over tower'd Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river's dim expanse
Like some bold seër in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance--
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right--
The leaves upon her falling light--
Thro' the noises of the night
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darken'd wholly,
Turn'd to tower'd Camelot.
For ere she reach'd upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
And round the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? and what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they cross'd themselves for fear,
All the knights at Camelot:
But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott."

Re: need a good poem for speech
Posted by: IanB (
Date: December 02, 2003 07:35AM

Katrina, please clarify 'in speech'.

From your topic heading alone, I thought you wanted some verse to incorporate in a speech (as in after-dinner). Am I right in inferring now that you are doing some kind of elocution course? Do you need a poem to read, or must you recite it from memory? ('The Lady of Shalott' is marvellous for either). Do you also have to speak about the poem?

Re: need a good poem for speech
Posted by: RJAllen (193.114.111.---)
Date: December 02, 2003 04:18PM

There's a book, The Embassy Affair by John Bossy, which gives an interesting account of Bruno.
Katrina: have a look at some of Browning's dramatic monologues. The shorter ones might be suitable.

Re: need a good poem for speech
Posted by: DonC (
Date: December 02, 2003 05:21PM

For heroics you can't beat "Horatio At The Bridge"

Re: need a good poem for speech
Posted by: joseph torelli (
Date: December 02, 2003 05:27PM


For suspense, and romance you really can't beat "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes. It's a beautiful ballad that is wonderful to recite.


Re: need a good poem for speech
Posted by: Katrina (
Date: December 02, 2003 06:36PM

yeah i accually used that last year. love that poem.

Re: need a good poem for speech
Posted by: Katrina (
Date: December 02, 2003 06:40PM

sorry... i have to have it memorized for a school sort of thing. a group of us go to other schools every saturday and compete against people with judges rating us. its accually pretty fun for geeks like me. smiling smiley

Re: need a good poem for speech
Posted by: Linda (
Date: December 02, 2003 06:41PM

Bruno said there's lots of inhabited planets out there in space, independent of the solar system.

Re: need a good poem for speech
Posted by: Pam Adams (134.71.192.---)
Date: December 03, 2003 07:45PM

Can you do funny stuff? Perhaps one of Newman Levy's works would do. There are several here. [] />

FAUST — Lyrics by Newman Levy from "Theatre Guyed," 1933, Alfred A. Knopf; music, Stewart Hendrickson.
Old Man Faust was verging on senility,
Long and lean and hoary were the whiskers that he wore.
"I'm getting old," he'd mutter as he mourned his lost virility,
"I'm not the gay young rascal that I was in days of yore."

There was a time, alas now gone, when all the flappers fell for me.
My prowess was a legend and a source of local pride;
But now I'm known as Grandpa Faust which, honestly, is hell for me.
The embers of my flaming youth lamentably have died.

"A neat and well turned female form that once disturbed me fearfully
My aged eyes now look upon with retrospective gloom.
Could I regain my vanished youth my soul I'd part with cheerfully-"
A clap of thunder rent the air and sulphur filled the room.

Beside him stood a stranger diabolical and sinister.
A smile of grim malevolence was on his handsome phiz.
Said Faust, "I'm almost certain this is not our local minister,
But I hate to think this bird's the bird I really think he is."

"My name is Mephistopheles," the stranger murmured pleasantly,
"Though all my little playmates call me Lucifer or Nick.
The metamorphosis you ask I'll manage for you presently.
For one of my accomplishments it's quite a simple trick."

"Just kindly sign this document prepared by my solicitor.
These legal technicalities at times seem rather strange,
Right here upon the dotted line. . . . Ah, thank you," said the visitor.
"Now gaze into that mirror - Yes, I thought you'd like the change."

Before him stood a paragon of virile masculinity.
"It's many years," Faust chuckled, "since I used to feel this way.
I know a dame named Marguerite who lives in this vicinity,
Let's drop around and visit her." The Devil said, "O.K."

With grim and tragic ruthlessness the plot moves forward hastily
As Faust, rejuvenated, makes amends for past delay;
Till Marguerite soon finds herself in what our parents tastily,
With delicate periphrasis would call The Family Way.

A rather narrow prejudice prevailed in that locality,
Which indicates the queer naive conventions of the time,
For in that straitlaced atmosphere of primitive morality
Infanticide was looked upon as somewhat of a crime.

The poor unwanted infant there reclining by its mama's side,
To use a current metaphor, was put upon the spot;
And Marguerite quite promptly was arrested charged with homicide,
And left to mourn her tragedy upon a prison cot.

And there, her reason tottering beneath the sharp impacts of life,
Poor Marguerite bemoans her sad and melancholy fate.
"Oh why did no one tell me anything about the facts of life,
And not to trust a city chap, before it was too late?"

With this she dies, and Faustus, too, conveniently perishes,
While Mephistopheles looks on with wild frustrated rage.
He says, "The next time any guy a notion like that cherishes
I'll simply say, 'Forget it, Kid, and try to be your age.'

Re: need a good poem for speech
Posted by: Hugh Clary (12.73.175.---)
Date: December 04, 2003 12:15PM

[] />
Try the Click To Play at the bottom of the page, also.

Re: need a good poem for speech
Posted by: Pam Adams (134.71.192.---)
Date: December 04, 2003 01:28PM

'Rain' is great too, but might not be PC enough for a contest.


RAIN — Lyrics by Newman Levy from "Theatre Guyed," 1933, Alfred A. Knopf; music from Mary Ellen Carter.

On the isle of Pago Pago,
land of palm trees, rice and sago,
Where the Chinaman and Dago
dwell with natives dusky hued,
Lived a dissolute and shady,
bold adventuress named Sadie,
Sadie Thompson was the lady,
and the life she lived was lewd.

She had practised her profession
in our insular possession,
Which, to make a frank confession,
people call the Philippines.
There she'd made a tidy profit
till the clergy, hearing of it,
Made her life as hot as Tophet,
driving her to other scenes.

So this impudent virago
hied herself to Pago Pago
Where the Chinaman and Dago
to her cottage often came.
Trade was lucrative and merry,
till one day the local ferry
Brought a noble missionary,
Rev'rend Davidson by name.

Stern, austere and apostolic,
life was no amusing frolic.
Braving fevers, colds and colic,
he had come with prayers and hymns,
Most intolerant of wowsers,
to those primitive carousers
Bearing chaste and moral trousers
to encase their nether limbs.

In her quaint exotic bower,
'mid a never-ending shower,
Sadie Thompson, by the hour,
entertained the local trade.
Every night brought more and more men,
soldiers, natives, clerks and store-men,
Sailors, gallant man-of-war men,
while her gay victrola played.

"Ha!" exclaimed the irate pastor,
"straight you're headed for disaster.
I'll convince you who's the master,
shameless woman of the street
"Listen, Rev.," said Sadie tartly,
pardon me for punning smartly
"Though I get your meaning-partly -
still, alas, a girl must eat."

"Girl," he cried in indignation,
"choose at once between salvation
And immediate deportation
from this charming tropic glade.
Like a devastating plague,
0 Scarlet Dame of Pago Pago,
You're as welcome as lumbago,
plying here your brazen trade."

Sadie said, "Though I'm no scoffer,
that's a lousy choice you proffer,
Still I must accept your offer
though my pride has been attacked.
Come on, Rev., and let us kill
a flask or two of sarsaparilla
Here in my delightful villa
while I watch you do your act."

Let us veil the tragic sequel,
for a pious man but weak will
Find, alas, that he's unequal
to a lady's potent charms.
So his long suppressed libido,
sharp as steel of famed Toledo,
Spurning prayers and hymns and credo,
found surcease in Sadie's arms.

There beside the waters tidal,
urged by impulse suicidal,
Lay, next day, the shattered idol,
cleansed at last of sin and taint.
Here's the moral: Though a preacher
fail to make a fallen creature
Pure and saintly as her teacher,
she, perhaps, can make a saint.

Re: need a good poem for speech
Posted by: IanB (
Date: December 05, 2003 11:23AM

Newman Levy was very clever and amusing, but there's an unfortunate blemish in 'Rain'. He mistakenly thought Pago Pago rhymes with dago, sago, etc. Had he been to Samoa he would have known it's pronounced Pango Pango.

One of his best recitable poems (with a similar theme) is 'Thais'. See

Two other good dramatic poems of the length you are looking for are:

Browning's 'The Pied Piper of Hamelyn'. See (I would leave out the last four lines, which are feeble compared to all preceding them).

and 'The Deacon's Masterpiece' by Oliver Wendell Holmes. See (though tricky to learn by heart the lines listing the various parts of the 'one-hoss shay').

Re: need a good poem for speech
Posted by: Hugh Clary (
Date: December 05, 2003 05:00PM

it's pronounced Pango Pango.

As if Newman could make a mistake!


Re: need a good poem for speech
Posted by: Pam Adams (134.71.192.---)
Date: December 05, 2003 06:59PM

Maybe he meant it as an eye rhyme. (actually, when pronunciation comes up against funny, I go for funny every time!)


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