Invictus by William Ernest Henley

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

Invictus by William Ernest Henley

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” is a poem written in 1875 by English poet William Ernest Henley. The word means “unconquered” in Latin.The last two lines were repeated on several occasions by Morgan Freeman in his performance as Nelson Mandela in the film “Invictus,” about Mandela’s efforts to unite his country around hosting and winning the 1995 rugby World Cup. It was said that Nelson Mandela had this poem written on a piece of paper he kept during his years in a South African prison. According to Mandela, the poem helped him cope with the pain of injustice and imprisonment.

In the movie, Mandela gives the “Invictus” poem to his national rugby team’s captain Francois Pienaar before the start of the Rugby World Cup. In reality, Mandela provided Pienaar with an extract from Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” speech from 1910. An excerpt of the speech from Wikipedia as below:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

I hope that the poem “Invictus” can give you the strength to overcome whatever challenges that you may be facing and can inspire you like it has helped Nelson Mandela to survive 27 years in imprisonment.

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

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37 thoughts on “Invictus by William Ernest Henley

  1. jacqueline

    Dearest Bk, this is beautiful! I am in love with the story and the quote “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.“ Thank you so very much for sharing this with us and for passing on this inspirational poem! I feel your support, love and strength. Have a lovely merry happy day and lots of love to you!
    .-= jacqueline´s last blog ..Celebrating paws-perity… =-.

    1. Symphony of Love Post author

      @ Jacqueline, thank you. Glad that you can feel the support. love and strength from the poem I shared. Have a lovely merry happy day and lots of love to you too.

  2. Sweetness

    BK, I was feeling terribly low today, however, reading this poem made me feel better. It reminds me of those who have faced greater troubles and have come out victorious despite all odds. I pray to maintain this kind of positivity in my fight against my ailment. Thanks a ton!

    1. Symphony of Love Post author

      @ Pam, you are absolutely right; Nelson Mandela is a shining example of persistence in trying times. That is much strength and inspiration in the poem.

      @ Sweetness , I wish that you can find the strength and inspiration to see you through your fight with your ailment. I am glad that you felt better from reading the poem.

  3. PinkLady

    i love this poem. i came across this poem in my elementary years and i used it as a piece in a school contest. a happy memory for me. as i read it again here, the words took on a different and much deeper meaning. thanks for sharing. 🙂
    .-= PinkLady´s last blog ..Happiness From Within =-.

    1. Symphony of Love Post author

      @ One of the Guys, I agree with you that it will take a lot of inner strength to survive that kind of adversity. Nelson Mandela is the second person I have learnt to possess this inner strength; Viktor Frankl was the first I knew about when I read his book ‘Man Search for Meaning.’

      @ Debbie, thank you for dropping by.

      @ Pinklady, interesting that you have come across this in your elementary. I am sure reading it again will give you a new level of understanding. 🙂

      @ Meleah, I hope we can all find strength and inspiration from the poem.

      @ Jude, you are most welcome. Good to hear from you again.

      @ Fatima, I agree with you; Nelson Mandela is a very good leading example for all of us. Glad that you love the poem and hope that you can find inspiration from it too.

  4. Belinda Munoz

    Mandela is one of our modern-day heroes/leaders whose story and life mission I think everyone should know about. A friend read his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom” recently and recommended it to me. Thanks to this post, I’ll remember to pick it up with my bookstore gift card. I’m familiar with the last two lines of this poem — very powerful words — but seeing it in the context of the full poem really packs a punch. Thanks!

    1. Symphony of Love Post author

      @ Brooke and Carver, thank you for dropping by.

      @ Belinda, I must pick up the book to read too. He definitely is one of the modern day leaders whom many leaders and we should be learning from.

    1. Symphony of Love Post author

      @ Windy, thank you for stopping by. I have gone over to take a look; truly a great thing that you are doing there. I will try to help within my mean.

      @ Jacqueline, thank you and wishing you a lovely merry happy weekend and love to you too.

      @ Megan, you are most welcome. Thank you for sharing about your surprise ideas too.

      @ Penny, I didn’t know about the poem too until I started to google for the lines “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul” from the movie and chance upon the poem. Those are indeed wise words to remember.

  5. Windy

    Dear BK,

    Thank you and thank you again.

    It matters not how much. When pooled together, the proceeds from the kindness of Blogger Donors helps the widow and her children to have a place called HOME.

    I am grateful to you BK. Your sincerity and benevolence towards this homeless widow really counts.

    God Bless you Always!

    .-= Windy´s last blog ..Project: “Heavenly Home” =-.

    1. Symphony of Love Post author

      @ Cafe au Lait, hope you have a great weekend too.

      @ Maria, you are most welcome. Have a great day too.

      @ Cathy, me too. I Googled for the last two lines of the poem and found the whole poem.

      @ Windy, you are most welcome; pardon me I do not have much to give.

  6. Hilary

    Hi BK – I’ve kept this in the Reader in the hope that I’d get to see the film soon – it is coming to our little local cinema soon and I like to support it – so I’ll wait til then. Having lived in SA and being English and understanding Rugby (to a point!) .. I’m really looking forward to seeing it .. your post is great and I’ve printed it out for a couple of non-techies!

    The book Long Walk to Freedom is very good – and I highly recommend it ..

    It’s these kind of peoples who struggle through who put me to shame and should invigorate me to get on with things .. I am, but too slowly! We are so lucky we have so much available for us ..

    Have a good week – Hilary
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..Alpha, Treacle, Beta, Dogger, Snow – what do they mean to you? =-.

    1. Symphony of Love Post author

      @ Hilary, that’s good to know that the film will be showing soon in the local cinema over your side; not to be missed. I really need to pick up the book in the library to read. Through them, I hope people, including myself, can find inspiration too. Have a good week too.

  7. Ben

    Really great literature you have here. Teddy Roosevelt’s speech has got to be one of the most inspirational speeches ever recorded. Now I’m sad that I never got to watch Invictus in theaters. I was meaning too and just ran out of time. And thank you for answering the question I’ve had for months now about what the word “Invictus” means.
    .-= Ben´s last blog ..Quotes to Live By — A Way that Seems Right =-.

    1. Symphony of Love Post author

      @ Ben, there will always be a chance to get a DVD of it although it wouldn’t be the same as watching it on big screen. However, a movie like this where we focus more on the substance, we do not need big screen. 🙂

      @ Justin, thank you.

  8. Symphony of Love Post author

    @ Sue, yes, that is really an inspiring movie. I didn’t know it was a poem too until I watched the movie. In the movie, Nelson Mandela asked Pienaar, “How do we inspire everyone around us? I sometime think it is through the works of others.”