A favourite short poem of mine was written during the Victorian era by William Ernest Henley. ‘Invictus’ is a classic blend of Stoicism, cultural and a biblical reference. With respect to the latter, in the fourth stanza Henley alludes to Matthew 7:14, ‘Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.’
Here is a poem that was written by a defiant Henley – he had a leg amputated and was fighting Tuberculosis. He knew hardship and he knew how to make a defiant stance against ‘fate’. This stance was a measure of a man who lived in a challenging world, accepted that to be the case, but through his words, demonstrating the power of free will Anyway, here is the full poem:
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
Such has been the impact of this poem over the years, it has been quoted by Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama, among others.