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 Henly (1849-1903)
I have always loved the poem, Invictus, by Victorian era English poet William Ernest Henly. I've often shared it with my children and family to encourage them when they were going through difficult times. And it has always inspired me; each stanza, each line, reminding me that I am the one who can chart my own destiny and achieve my long-held dreams.
William Henly contracted tuberculosis of the bone as a child of twelve years old. Sadly, the disease progressed to his foot, and his leg had to be amputated below his knee. He was 17 years old at that time. He wrote the famed poem, Invictus, along with several other poems, shortly after his leg was amputated while in the hospital.
His poem has motivated many, including the late Former South African President and Nobel Laureate, Nelson Mandela. He was inspired by the message in, Invictus, during his many years of suffering and imprisonment.
Life in general can often feel as if we're in a ship at sea in the middle of a torrential storm. We see the shore in the horizon but don't know which way to steer. Sometimes in our frustration we're ready to pass the helm to someone else or give up altogether.
But as in this poem, we have to hold close to our heart that indeed we can be the captain of our fate, the one who's in control as much as is humanly possible. We have what it takes to navigate around those crashing waves. We have the gift of wisdom, patience, creativity, unrelenting faith, and strength, to help us get though any external storm. Even as writers, we have what it takes to get through a myriad of writing hurdles that at times may cause us to lose self confidence or question our future as writers. We can choose a more advantageous to self response and have a brighter outlook when faced with repeated rejections, or harsh critiques of our work, knowing the worth of our work.
We can readjust our lens so it isn't as harsh and unforgiving to self, to view our writing life in a more positive light. We can choose to focus on our successes more than our setbacks, the quality of the work we've already published and not just the quantity we haven't. We can choose to focus on how dedicated and fearless we are in telling stories that are meaningful to us, and will hopefully be for others, instead of focusing on our doubts concerning our writing.
The poem, Invictus, inspires us to press on, persevere through our rough patches, those arduous seasons in our life, now particularly in our world. It's powerful words let us know we have the ability to change our ships course and speed, that we don't have to be at the mercy of the elements.
We can choose to live, write, create, embrace joy and purpose, no matter what. We are the master of our fate. We are the captain of our soul.
Jeanine DeHoney has had her writing published in several anthologies, magazines and blogs.