An e-mail came in the other day from one of my favorite classmates from dear ol’ Evergreen High, class of 1952. She was remembering our English teacher, “Miz Newton,” who told us to memorize the poem Invictus because at some point in our lives this poem might help us through some troubling moments.
Certainly, it has provided inspiration and comfort for me and a lot of other people.
I know of movies in which Invictus has been a vital theme for people going through dramatic times.
The latest one was titled Invictus, and tells the story of how Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) joined forces with the captain of South Africa’s rugby team, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), to help unite their country.
The word invictus means invincible, unconquerable.
Years ago, I was told that William Ernest Henley, who wrote Invictus, wrote it the night before he was scheduled to have an appendectomy, which, at that time, was not the easy operation it is today.
I read, too, that Invictus was favored by Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted of bombing the Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people.
There is something to Invictus the poem that reinforces strength of an individual.
So here is Invictus by William Ernest Henley (1849-1902):
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.
Gillis Morgan is an associate professor emeritus of journalism at Auburn University and an award-winning columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org