Sunday, 21 May 2017


The first time I heard anything of Invictus, I was watching an episode of Criminal Minds and when the job was done and the team was in the plane heading back to wherever they were heading back to, a member of the team quoted the final verse of the poem:
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.
The writer of the poem is a poet called William Ernest Henley, who lived between the 17th and 18th century, whose whole literary reputation rests solely on this singular piece of art.
Basically, it is a short poem about not sulking because you have a shitty life; it reminds us that everything is under our control because we are the masters of our fate. ‘Invictus’ is from a Latin word that translates to English as ‘unconquerable’.
Now, it is important that we understand the context based upon which this poem was written. As a child, William Ernest Henley developed tuberculosis of the bone, which occurs when the bacteria that causes Tuberculosis spread from the lungs to the bone, then as a young man of 25 the Tuberculosis spread to his foot and his doctors decided that in order for his life to be saved, they must amputate his leg. Henley wrote Invictus on his hospital bed.
Faith is a very important concept in life, in this case, faith in anything. Not so much important where the faith is directed, per se, at least not immediately. In the third and fourth lines, Henley wrote: ‘I thank whatever gods may be, For my unconquerable soul.’ There is also a part of the poem which I find personally satisfying. In the 7th and 8th line, Henley suggests that pain picks its victims through nothing but chance, which is at variance with the way many people see it, they assume that everything happens in a planned sequence: and victims of pain are victims of pain because someone (usually the devil) has a personal vendetta against them. Henley writes: ‘Under the bludgeoning of chance, My head is bloody, but unbowed.’ Notice ‘under the bludgeoning of chance’, It is chance that bludgeons you, nothing else. Bringing in the devil puts a religious spin to it and when there is a religious spin to it, there is something to pray about or pray against. This is only true some of time.
I believe that this poem is a must read, not just for individuals who are going through pain and or suffering, but for every person.
And because of that, you can find the poem below for your reading pleasure.
You are welcome!

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.

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