Sunday, December 13, 2009


Invictus is a new movie about the transition from apartheid in South Africa and . . . rugby. Weird combo, but still worth seeing. Morgan Freeman plays Mandela and Matt Damon plays Francois Pienaar, the captain of the South African rugby team.

One foundational "character" in the film is the 1875 William Ernest Henley poem for which the movie is titled:

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.

I'd heard this poem before; it's pretty well known. It has more resonance with me now for some reason. I aspire to more closely embody the stoic, determined characteristics that "Invictus" describes.

This poem might be a bit sullied because Timothy McVeigh, of all people, used it as his final statement before his execution. :-/ (Thanks Wiki!) Even so, "Invictus" is a powerful piece of literary art with enduring significance.


  1. That's my favorite poem, ever since I used it in a paper and presentation in English class in high school.

  2. Oh, that's cool! I could see you liking this poem. My favorite poem slot is already taken by Claude McKay's "If We Must Die" - also since high school.