Friday, December 6, 2013

Poetry Friday: Invictus

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

I just heard on the news tonight about Nelson Mandela's death. During his long incarceration in various South African prisons, he is said to have recited the following poem to fellow inmates in order to share its empowering "message of self-mastery."  So I wanted to share it with you, by way of remembering Mandela's long, long struggle against apartheid.


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.

                       -William Ernest Henley

Mandela's message of reconciliation (as opposed to revenge) is one that world leaders need to be listening to, I think.

If you haven't read J.M. Coetzee's The Life and Times of Michael K., be sure to do so - short, powerful and haunting, and a good beginning point for learning more about the devastating effects of institutionalized racism, imprisonment and civil war. 
Robyn Hood Black is hosting this week's Poetry Friday round-up. Head over there to see what other people are sharing.


  1. So sad, but what a remarkable 95 years he had. His will to survive and to continue with his work is astonishing.

  2. Yet another example of the power of poetry to shape leaders! Wonderful post for a sad day.

  3. It is important to know that Mandela lived this way, took a poem as his guide, and important that the story is shared. I wonder how many do know? Thanks Julie.

  4. One of the GatheringBooks ladies, Iphigene and I, have just been discussing this poem Invictus and how powerful it is. Thank you for sharing this in connection to Mandela's legacy and passing. How beautiful.

  5. What a great poem. We watched the movie Invictus last night. It seemed fitting.

  6. Thank you. A perfect choice as we remember this great man and all he did for his country and the world.

  7. Thank you for honoring Nelson Mandela in this simple, yet powerful way... much like the man himself.