Perhaps you saw the film “Invictus” starring Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, and Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, captain of South Africa’s national rugby team, who was entrusted with an idea Mandela had to help unite the bitterly divided country following the end of apartheid in 1994.
Invictus is the Latin word for “unconquerable.” The poem of that title, which is an integral part of the film mentioned above, was written by William Ernest Henley at age 26 while he was recovering from a leg amputation due to complications from childhood tuberculosis. Knowing that true story, we can step into Henley’s thoughts and imagine that he wrote this poem as a commitment to himself that he would not give up, no matter what came next.
As a matter of fact, it wasn’t long before his doctors announced that it was necessary to perform a life-saving operation and amputate his other leg, but by then Dr. Joseph Lister, the scientist who championed antisepsis (anti-germs in medical settings and health matters), was on the scene and was able to save the young man’s limb and life.
What in your own life is calling to you to be brave? Perhaps you are struggling with poor health, or financial challenges that just won’t seem to go away. Although it may not seem like it, we always have control over our own thoughts and attitude, and as you learn more about accessing the power of using the natural laws of the mind, you’ll discover you aren’t the victim of circumstances at all, but rather the captain of your soul.
By the time you reach the end of this poem, you’ll recognize an often-quoted excerpt, which has become part of our lexicon: I am the master of my fate/ I am the captain of my soul.
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 this menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll.
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley
(written in 1875; published in 1888)