Thursday, February 21, 2013

Invictus: The Undying Spirit of a Poem

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. 

For my first Advanced Literature Oral Presentation, I chose this short Victorian poem by English poet, William Ernest Henley. Between this and Kipling's If, it was a hard choice. But, the language of Invictus appealed much more to me! It has been one of the poems that have touched me endlessly and inspired me for years.

Invictus is Latin for unconquered and undefeated. And that is the spirit of the whole poem-- the idea that you control your fate more than anyone else ever will.

The power of this poem can be seen through how it inspired Nelson Mandela in his 27 years in prison , in his rise from prisoner to President, in the South Aftican rugby team’s climb from national embarrassment to champions of the Rugby World Cup and in South Africa’s transition from apartheid to unity-- that despite all odds, despite all expectations, they took control of their destinies and came out victorious.

The last line reinforces the title-- it is man who makes decisions for himself. Until I decide to give up,  I shall remain invictus & unconquered.

Before I end, let me record down the titles of a few poems/works which my classmates presented:
All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter by Tolkien
Television by Dahl
Lolita by Nabokov (I must say, this is an interesting selection by Tianyi! I've read this novel and the language is gorgeously rendered, enough to give an artistic interpretation to an otherwise revolting act.)

I love lessons like this when I get to be introduced to many new interesting literature pieces from a vast selection of varying tastes and all ends of the spectrum. 

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