Monday, 21 July 2014


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 Henley is known to many people by means of this single poem. He wrote it in 1875, when his foot was amputated following a tuberculosis infection. This short poem has inspired a number of leaders over the years. It was Nelson Mandela’s favorite poem due to its strong message of defiance and determination. It is said that he often recited it to his fellow prisoners at Robben Island during his 18 years of imprisonment there. Among other things, this poem played a significant part in enabling him to go through the years and years of detention. It is amazing to think that how written word can influence people and shape history in decades and centuries to come, usually beyond the wildest imaginations of its original authors. Would the history of South Africa be any different, if this poem was not written more than a hundred years ago?

Image Credit: Alizee

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