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Sunday, 16 October 2016

Invictus – a Bleak Poem? No, It’s a Call to Action!

Some time ago, one of my Vistage Chairman colleagues posted a poem called Invictus on the website.   For some reason it has followed me around and at every touch and turn I seem to hear or read about it, especially the last couple of lines.    It is by William Ernest Henley (1849-1902) a Gloucestershire poet, critic and author and this is it:

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.

HRH Prince Harry linked the name of the poem for his championing of the wonderful series of Olympic type games set up especially for disabled veterans of wars around the world and one can see how the last couple of lines resonate.

My Vistage colleague in the USA said that when he showed Invictus to his girl friend she said, “That is a very bleak poem” so he ditched the poem and married the girl.

It is pretty bleak in places but I must say that the last two lines are very powerful.   We live in a world where the perpetual cry is “Someone should do something about it” or “Why doesn’t the Government sort it out?” or worst of all, “I’m entitled”.

Yes, someone should do something about it, whatever that may be, and that someone is the individual him or herself who needs to take on the responsibility.

Until we realise that we are the master of our own fate and the captain of our own soul, then this perpetual harping on wanting other people to sort out our problems will never go away. 

I heard the other day a piece on the radio by Darren Campbell, Gold Medal Olympic sprint relay winner, of his struggles in his youth and his determination to get himself out of the life he was living.  He did this to some effect and it was exactly what Invictus offers.

This is not a political rant for or against the welfare state or even the nanny state but rather a plea for the understanding that unless we take responsibility for our own lives then we will be perpetually in thrall to “someone else”.

Of course and sadly there will always be some who by dint of circumstance are unable to control their lives and it is right that government and the charities step in to heal the breach wherever possible.

This does not absolve those of us who are in a safer place in life to do something to help and at least make some sort of contribution to alleviating suffering of whatever kind.

The grace before and after meals in Freemasonry gives thanks and exhorts us "ever to be mindful of the needs of others less fortunate than ourselves" and, by implication, to do something about it.  A very worthy objective.

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