Thursday, August 5, 2010


William Ernest Henley (1849 - 1903)

This Victorian poem, by English poet, William Ernest Henley, has remained on my mind today after watching the film, “Invictus” with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon last night.

It’s one I’ve not heard until yesterday and find it hauntingly beautiful:

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 bludgeonings 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.

Invictus, means “unconquered” in Latin. These evocative words found their way into the heart and mind of Nelson Mandela during his many years in prison and provided a much needed sense of inspiration and hope.

I find it encouraging to a weary soul, yet the lines, “Beyond this place of wrath and tears / Looms but the Horror of the shade” revealing of a tarnished hope. Still, it's that mark of the Divine in the human spirit -that unfathomable resilience- that intrigues me so!


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E.B. said...

That is one inspiring piece of poetry. My Mom recommended that movie, though I have yet to see it. Now I am even more interested.

Darlene said...

Greetings. First time poster here. I think the poem is beautiful until it gets to the last two lines:

"I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul."

Of course, I understand that the writer is not coming from a Christian perspective. "No man has power to retain the spirit, or authority over the day of death," the wise Solomon said in Ecclesiastes. We are not the masters of our fate. "God giveth and God taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." Job knew this all too well.

amy said...

Pleasant greetings to you as well, Darlene. Thank you for taking the time to leave your thoughts.

God's blessings to you!

Anonymous said...

It is a nice poem, with a delightful air of courage. In a similar but converse perspective, and no less courageous or bold, are two poems by Longfellow:

Goblet of Life
The Wind Over the Chimney

A quick search will turn up at least one website with these on them.

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