Findings in the Files: Unconquerable? No, Conquered!



These two findings are a true study in contrasts -- Invictus by William Ernest Henley and My Captain by Dorothea Day. The famous poem Invictus has been used to inspire everything from humanistic lofty goals, like that of Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, to prideful, "in your face" statements like that of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber.

Timothy McVeigh chose the poem as his final (written) statement before being executed.  Nelson Mandela, incarcerated for anti-apartheid activities, was encouraged by it to rise above his circumstances.

Take a look at the poem for yourself:

INVICTUS 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.




In stark contrast is the next poem.  I was homeschooling my son Jeremy in 6th grade when I came across the poem My Captain by Dorothea Day in his curriculum.

In the early 1900's, young Dorothea Day had been attracted to Henley and his humanistic philosophy.  When she was later converted to Christ, Dorothea took each line of his blatantly humanistic poem Invictus and gave an inspiring Christian answer.  Read and give all praise to our Sovereign Lord God!

MY CAPTAIN Dorothea Day

Out of the night that dazzles me, Bright as the sun from pole to pole, I thank the God I know to be For Christ the conqueror of my soul.

Since His the sway of circumstance, I would not wince nor cry aloud. Under that rule which men call chance My head with joy is humbly bowed.

Beyond this place of sin and tears That life with Him! And His the aid, Despite the menace of the years, Keeps, and shall keep me, unafraid.

I have no fear, though strait the gate, He cleared from punishment the scroll. Christ is the Master of my fate, Christ is the Captain of my soul.

God exalted him to the highest place    and gave him the name that is above every name,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,    to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11 NIV

For a "side-by-side" arrangement, click here.