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Invictus by William Ernest Henley

Thursday, February 25, 2010
Just watched Invictus directed by Clint Eastwood starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. Great movie!

I want to share with you this haunting and powerful poem the movie was named after, Invictus, written by British poet William Ernest Henley. This poem is Nelson Madela's favorite and served as one of his greatest inspiration and source of power during his 29 years of prison before his presidency.

When he became President of South Africa, he saw the opportunity in Rugby as a means to unite his racially divided people with adamant belief that the universal language of sport can break the barriers of apartheid. He then meets with South African Rugby Team Captain Francois Peinaar and tasked him for his team to champion the coming Rugby World Cup. As was evident in Francois' expression the hesitation and disbelief in the seemingly impossible task appointed to him, Nelson Madela gave him a hand written copy of Invictus for inspiration.

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.

Truly an evocative piece most famous for its last couple of lines. Just wanted to share this with you hoping it will have the same effect on you as it had with Nelson Mandela, Francois Peinaar and the many more unknown men who have drawn courage and strength from it.  

Here is the theme song from the movie Invictus, 9000 days, performed by Overtone and Yollandi Nortjie, which lyrics was also inspired and some lines even taken from the poem. 9000 days is equivalent to the 27 years Nelson Mandela spent in prison.

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