A Poem Public Speakers Can Use: “The Chambered Nautilus”

Here are two stanzas from “The Chambered Nautilus” by Oliver Wendell Holmes.

I learned lines from this splendid poem in high school, in particular the phrase “Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul.” And I’ve never forgotten its imagery or its lesson.

Like the chambered nautilus, I have moved to newer larger rooms and left the old ones behind.

This is a memorable quotation that you can use if you’re a minister, priest, or rabbi, a professional speaker, or a relative or friend who’s asked to speak at a graduation ceremony or funeral.

You can recite an excerpt from the poem as a stand-alone element of your presentation, or you can set up your recitation by recounting some interesting facts about the Chambered Nautilus (which is a fascinating story itself.)

”Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year’s dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free, Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!”

––Gene Griessman is an internationally known keynote speaker, actor, and communication strategist. His book “The Words Lincoln Lived By” is in its 25th printing and “Time Tactics of Very Successful People” is in its 43rd. His training video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations.

Gene Griessman

He has spoken at conventions all over the world. To learn more about his presentations, call 404-435-2225. Learn more at his website orat Atlanta Speakers Bureau. Photo Credit: Wayne Weinberg


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