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Invictus -poem- (William Ernest Henley)
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"I am the master of my fate... I am the captain of my soul".

"Invictus" is a short Victorian poem by the English poet William Ernest Henley (1849–1903).

William Ernest Henley contracted tuberculosis of the bone when he was just 12 years old. He suffered from the disease until he was 25. The doctors then told him that they would have to remove his most severely infected leg immediately, and that if he were to survive, they would need to remove the other one as well.
As a strong willed person, he gave the doctors permission to remove just one leg, to the knee, but that he was keeping his other leg.
In 1875, at the age of 25 he wrote "Invictus" from his hospital bed, the perfect expression of his response to the challenges of life.
Henley went on to live an active, productive life as a poet. He kept his other leg.

- Can we see the President's cell?
- Yes, of course.
- Wow, can you believe that?
- Now, the number on the door 46664 means, he was the 466th prisoner admitted in 1964. It's not adapted, that's the way it was. Come with me.

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 fate
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.

original upload and comments by Marimistasin

THE PRESIDENT= He is referring to Nelson Mandela. The movie is about the life of Nelson Mandela, who was sent to prison during the Apartheid but later became president of South Africa.

THE NIGHT= "Night" is a metaphor for suffering of any kind. "Night" symbolizes the hardships that the person has gone through and being 'out' of it implies that he has overcome them.

PIT= /pɪt/ A natural or artificial hole or cavity in the ground; figuratevely, an abyss. The speaker compares the darkness of his suffering to the blackness of a hellish pit, a very very deep pit, stretching from the north pole to the south pole.

THANK= To express gratitude to, to convey feelings of gratitude to.

WHATEVER = One or some or every or all without specification. The use of the words "whatever" and "may" implies that his strength is innate and divine intervention would not make a difference. Thanking some gods whose nature and existence is uncertain makes it more sarcastic (may be = possibly exist).

UNCONQUERABLE= /ʌnkɒŋkərəbəl/ Impossible to conquer; also invincible and invulnerable. This word establishes the theme and a link with the title (Invictus = Latin for "unconquered").

SOUL= The spirit or immaterial part of man, the seat of human personality, intellect, will, and emotions, regarded as an entity that survives the body after death. It's not necessarily refer to the religious perspective of it. It could simply mean his attitude.

FELL= (adjetive) Of an inhumanly cruel nature, fierce.

CLUTCH= A claw or talon in the act of grasping. This stanza begins with another metaphor, comparing circumstance to a creature with a deadly grip (fell clutch). The poet is describing someone who has had a hard life. They have encountered many troubles and circumstances, but have never given up pushing through them. After their life has been beaten down, they are still strong and hopeful.

WINCE= /wɪns/ To shrink or start involuntarily, as in pain or distress; flinch.

BLUDGEONINGS= Beatings of chance. Chance strikes him repeatedly, over and over. "Bludgeoning" has the definition of beating or forcing down. Henley is implying that someone has been beaten down, but they are still capable and full of endurance to conquer the troubles of the life ahead of them.

FATE= Destiny, the supposed force, principle, or power that predetermines events.

BLOODY= Stained with blood.

UNBOWED= Not subdued; unyielding.

BEYOND= /bɪjɒnd/ (as a preposition, followed by a noun) Further away than this place of wrath and tears. Henley suggests that there is more.

WRATH= /rɒθ/ Anger, fury. The "place of wrath and tears" of which Henley writes is the world we live in, the place where we are the prey of circumstance and the prisoners of chance. It's also refering to life as "this vale of tears".

LOOM= (Figurative) Come close in a menacing way.

BUT (=only) THE HORROR OF THE SHADE= It's a poetic expression for Death. And death could not possibly worry him, being an end to "wrath and tears"; death is merely an end to suffering for our speaker.

MENACE= /menɪs/ A threat. 'The menace of the years' is the expiration of our worldly time, the end of which would mark the beginning of the journey.

UNAFRAID= Not scared, not frightened. Henley holds defiantly that this imminent end "finds, and shall find him unafraid." This disregard for fear is a declaration of acceptance of all that will come after death.

STRAIT=  (Archaic) Narrow; difficult. This line is strongly associated with Christian ideas and images. "It matters not how strait the gate" contains a direct biblical allusion: "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).

SCROLL= A roll of parchment, paper, etc., usually inscribed with writing. (see picture)

THE CAPTAIN OF MY SOUL= The captain of the immortal part of us. These words are basically interpreting how a person is the controller of his own life. Whatever he encounters in life, or whatever life throws at him, he is the "the master of his fate, the captain of his soul"; he can manage his own life, he is his own god, guide and judge.

While imprisoned on Robben Island Prison, where he was incarcerated for 27 years, Nelson Mandela (who later served as President of South Africa, and won the Nobel Peace Prize) recited the poem to himself and other prisoners as a way to bolster their spirits, and motivate them to press onward. He felt empowered by the message of self mastery.

© Angel Castaño 2008 Salamanca / Poole - free videos to learn real English online || InfoPrivacyTerms of useContactAbout
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