Friday, March 4, 2011


This poem has become like a battle hymn for me.  Nelson Mandela quoted it often while imprisoned on Robben Island, and spoke of its empowering nature, but the author, William Earnest Henley, wrote it from a hospital bed.  He'd had his foot amputated due to a severe case of tuberculosis of the bone - he was 25.  It resonates with me, as you can imagine, because of the connection to illness and adversity.

Invictus (Unconquerable)

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.
-William Earnest Henley, 1875

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