Invictus

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.

by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)

Background:

At the age of 12, Henley became a victim of tuberculosis of the bone. A few years later the disease progressed to his foot, and physicians announced that the only way to save his life was to amputate directly below the knee. In 1867 he successfully passed the Oxford local examination as a senior student. In 1875 he wrote the “Invictus” poem from a hospital bed. Despite his disability, he survived with one foot intact and led an active life until the age of 53.

Invictus, a 2009 film directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. The film is a look at the life of Nelson Mandela after the fall of apartheid in South Africa, during his term as president, when he campaigned to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup event as an opportunity to unite his countrymen.

The title comes from the fact that Mandela had the poem written on a scrap of paper on his prison cell while he was incarcerated. 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.

Invictus is the Latin word  for Unconquered.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invictus

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