As many know, Nelson Mandela recited the poem many times during his incarceration in South Africa and was empowered by it’s message of self-mastery. Like Nelson Mandela, I too found remarkable comfort and reaffirmation in the words of Henley after the crucible I went through during August 2012. For hours I had recited that poem end to end until it was second-nature; burned into my memory.
To remind myself of all I have experienced, and all that is left to do, I pen the word “Invictus” to my right forearm before every major race, including my triathlons. So when I cross the finish line of the next race, I can stand knowing I remain invictus; unconquerable.
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