69. Invictus: William Ernest Henley

A classic Victorian poem now lending its name to the new Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon movie about Nelson Mandela and the South African rugby team.

Henley had tuberculosis as a child, and his foot was amputated below the knee. He wrote this from his hospital bed. We are currently looking at health care policy in Social Science, and the burden of unnecessary medical visists and procedures on the system. Would a bit of stoicism help the system, or keep people from seeking the help they need? As our avoiders seem to need a visit to the nurse and an ice pack every time work is expected, a little self restraint might be appropriate.

I have used such poems before big sporting events. Along with “Casey and the Bat” and the Saint Crispin Day speech from “Henry V”, this is a good poem to work with if you want to demonstrate HOW to read a poem. Emotion, anyone?! Instead of the usual mumble, I push them like a cheer squad to bark it out with spirit. We talk about emotion; sports movies are full of it. How does an inspirational poem like this demand a mix of spirit and reflection.

How does sports?

How does life?

William Ernest Henley

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.


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