What do you think about this poem, Invictus, by William Ernest Henley?
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.
Most people would call it a very un-Christian poem. On face value, I would have to agree. After all, isn’t Christianity about submitting our lives and will to God? Henley here is anything but submissive. Yet somehow, I LOVE this poem.
This poem speaks to me of freedom and of courage. I think free will, freedom, must be God’s greatest and most painful gift. I wonder if the stars in the heavens gasped a collective breath when God had the mettle to place the gift of freedom in the hands of corruptible human beings. Freedom admits the possibility of the billions of ways fellow humans violate one another and yet, He valued us enough to place it in our hands. How painful it must be for Him, as loving Father, to watch what we’ve done with it, even knowing that in the end most of us would blame him for the consequences of the choices that we’ve made. How great a gift! How costly!
And then there’s courage. I’ve begun to think that courage is the most important thing. Yes, love… love is the most valuable thing in the universe. But what is love without courage? Without courage love wilts and dies before it blooms. Courage births and sustains love. It testifies that God exists and that divinity is native to the human heart. And courage partnered with love is an unconquerable combination. It is the formula for faith. Courage with love allows a single person to resist the pressure of a crowd; a peasant to stand against a king; a child to say ‘no’.
You survived. You chose to live, bloody but unbowed. You are unconquered.
These things are beautiful beyond belief;
The pleasant weakness that comes after pain,
The radiant greenness that comes after rain,
The deepened faith that follows after grief,
And the awakening to love again.