June 4, 2018

Poems to Help Your Public Speaking: Diction for A June Night

Resources , Poems to Read Aloud , Public Speaking , Seen|Read|Heard

The Buckley School's founder believed that all public speakers should hone their presentation skills by reading poetry out loud. We keep that worthwhile practice alive by including a poem in our magazine each month for you to read aloud. 

"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free"

– From "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus

Poet Emma Lazarus wrote some of the most famous lines in the United Stateslines that come to mind whenever anyone mentions the Statue of Liberty.

They are from her sonnet "The New Colossus." Lazarus wrote it in 1883 for an event to raise money to construct a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. At the time, she was 34 years old.

A member of a large and wealthy Jewish family in New York, Lazarus was well educated and well traveled. She published her first book of poems at age 17. Ralph Waldo Emerson was her friend and mentor. In addition to her writing—poems, literary criticism, a novel, and two plays—she was an advocate for Jewish refugees fleeing Russia.

For our June read aloud, we're suggesting this Lazarus poem, which will give your diction and enunciation a workout on the laziest summer day.

A June Night


Ten o'clock: the broken moon
Hangs not yet a half hour high,
Yellow as a shield of brass,
In the dewy air of June,
Poised between the vaulted sky
And the ocean's liquid glass. 

Earth lies in the shadow still;
Low black bushes, trees, and lawn
Night's ambrosial dews absorb;
Through the foliage creeps a thrill,
Whispering of yon spectral dawn
And the hidden climbing orb.

Higher, higher, gathering light,
Veiling with a golden gauze
All the trembling atmosphere,
See, the rayless disk grows white!
Hark, the glittering billows pause!

Faint, far sounds possess the ear.
Elves on such a night as this
Spin their rings upon the grass;
On the beach the water-fay
Greets her lover with a kiss;
Through the air swift spirits pass,
Laugh, caress, and float away.

Shut thy lids and thou shalt see
Angel faces wreathed with light,
Mystic forms long vanished hence.
Ah, too fine, too rare, they be
For the grosser mortal sight,
And they foil our waking sense.

Yet we feel them floating near,
Know that we are not alone,
Though our open eyes behold
Nothing save the moon's bright sphere,
In the vacant heavens shown,
And the ocean's path of gold.


For a wonderful interactive version of "The New Colossus" see this.

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