Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Man Cave: Invictus

For those who don't know or haven't yet heard, Invictus is a poem by Englishman William Ernest Henley. It was written in 1875, at a time when young William was in the midst of great physical adversity (his leg was about to be amputated). I think it may be the manliest poem ever written.

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 straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

"I am the master of my fate."

"I am the captain of my soul."



What inspiring words! In a world where victimhood seems to be the prevailing social currency, how refreshing it is to hear a voice from the past whispering words of strength and self-sufficiency. We don't have to be corks bobbing around in the ocean of life, subject to currents and tides beyond our control. Instead we can be mighty ships, each charting our own course; creating for ourselves the kind of life we want. We can make decisions and stand strong in our principles, despite any ridicule or scorn that may be heaped upon us.  As harsh as life may treat us, we can weather the "menace of the years".

There are many things is this world that can diminish a person's ability to chart their own course in life if they are allowed to; a million things that will seek to control us. The words of Invictus are a war cry: we are not powerless against them! By making good choices and exercising self discipline we can stand triumphant above  the "bludgeonings of chance."

And for those of you that may be sitting now with your fingers poised over the keyboard, yes....I am already aware that several poets, including Dorthea Day and Orson Whitney, have penned responses to Invictus. Using the same rhyme and meter, they put forth the notion that the protagonist of Invictus is a proud man who has forgotten that he is beholden in all things to God.

To Dorthea and Orson I can only say - missed the point.

*photo by brllnt_harmony


  1. I know this poem well, because Aaron has made it a point to teach it and discuss it with our children; often. They can quote parts of it from memory, and actually do occasionally. A very good point to instill in your kids! "You are the master of your fate; the captain of your soul!" Perfect.

  2. Very nicely said! I agree 100%, people don't realize the power they hold for their own destiny.

  3. sounds like a vinyl quote in the makings!