Monday, July 05, 2010


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.

Having just watched the movie INVICTUS starring Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, I was curious about the poetry that is referred to throughout the movie.  Wikipedia, as usual, was of help, although I give Freeman more credit for his performance and betrayal than the movie reviewer in the article from Zemanta quoted below.  The poem, written by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), is said to have been written on a small scrap of paper and kept by Mandela during his imprisonment.

For me the movie was a portrayal of greatness, of forgiveness and for the beginnings of the end of apartheid in South Africa.  Mandela's integral part in teaching forgiveness is astoundingly portrayed in the film.  The greatness in the movie for me was not the actors' performances but the message of hope around which the story was constructed.

.....and a thought regarding the actual poem.....are we the captains of our souls, am I?  .....are you?
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  1. Sometimes I just feel like a second mate. :)

  2. I just watched this movie last night, and cannot stop thinking about the implications of it.

    For me, the idea that has captivated me is how contagious inspiration can be when it's consciously spread around by someone with a deep faith - no, knowledge - of its creative power. Not just creative in the sense of making a painting, but of creating the world.

    Thanks for printing the poem. I too was wondering about it.

  3. What a very good question, SS! Are we the captain of our soul? John O'Donohue says that our soul is the envelope of our body...

    Do I believe that my soul is eternal?

    The 'captain of my soul' idea reminds me of a concept in Hinduism that each one of us is the charioteer, with emotions, will, etc being the horses and the body being the chariot.

    I find easier to say 'I am the captain of my fate' because so much of my fate depends on the way I take it. The 'captain of my soul' sounds good but, at this moment, I don't feel it is relevant for me.

    Thank you again and blessings.

  4. Hi L.L. -
    Yes, sometimes second mate would be good versus the occasional "drifting" that I find myself in:) Attempting to be a good co-captain of my soul seems like a worthy effort. It's pretty nice to envision the true Captain is willing to hand over the wheel to me in this life:)

  5. Hi Polli -

    I've bn away for a few days or wd hv replied sooner as I always like hearing from you very much! The movie was so inspirational to me and I agree how contagious a person of real faith can be to a multitude/the world. Mandela's example of faith and leadership is truly miraculous!

    Thanks for your comments.


  6. Claire,

    Thank you for contributing additional thoughts to those I had shared. Your power of observation and expansion of an idea is a gift that I am pleased to enjoy from time to time!