Opening Nationwide Today: “Invictus”

Quite a bit of excitement has been already engendered by the imminent arrival in movie theaters of Clint Eastwood’s “Invictus,”  a story of the South African civil rights protester and eventual first democratically-elected President of that country Nelson Mandela,  whom Morgan Freeman portrays.  Matt Damon is also one of the stars.

No one’s said or written it yet that I’ve run across, but it would appear that this film biography may well be compared to Richard Attenborough’s 1982 masterpiece,  “Gandhi,” with Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley in the title role.  This film was widely praised and won a total of nine “Oscars.*”

The “Nobel Peace Prize” was awarded to Nelson Mandela in 1993 and would doubtless have been awarded to Gandhi had the Committee elected not to give individual awards in the WWII era and its immediate aftermath.  Together they can be affirmed as the two outstanding global pacifists of the past century.  Without Gandhi as an inspiration,  one would doubt that Martin Luther King, Jr., would have been so patient and resolute in fighting for equality for all Americans, but most especially for African-Americans.  “Passive resistance” proved its power in the lives of all three men,   two of whom were tragically taken from us by assassins.

Why was “Invictus” chosen as a title for this new film? Read the poem by William Ernest Henley below first (if you are not already familiar with it):

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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.

It matters not that mass murderer and American terrorist Timothy McVeigh recited this poem as he approached his execution.  He was just not into the theme of “passive resistance” in his personal, bull-headed philosophy.  He ought to have read more about and by Nelson Mandela,   more about and by Mohandas K. Gandhi.

Until you’ve seen the Eastwood version of Nelson Mandela’s life story (based largely upon Mr. Mandela’s autobiography,  “Long Walk to Freedom,”  published in 1993) and learned more about his own account of how much the poem solaced him in his long confinement,  until that time you (and I) will not be able to form a complete judgment.

And it would be helpful also to review how Henley was affected by his relatively short, but pain-filled (he had an arduous struggle with tuberculosis in the bones of his legs) life.  And to learn how his robust optimism made his life at least bearable, if not fulfilled.

As a grace note:  there is a music setting for “Invictus” that I heard sung by a schoolmate many years ago.  Do any bloggers out there know more about this?



10 Responses to “Opening Nationwide Today: “Invictus””

  1. fayettenam hoe Says:

    maybe you just don’t under stand the B.S. that many people have to endure just to get through in day to day life, a movie is only a fraction of the lives

  2. Tammy Stephens Says:

    Love the poem.

  3. Gene Smith Says:


    I still retain the poem from junior high. Actually, I got it from my high-school kin.

    I have a question for fayhoe: Which of the subjects Ray mentioned was “only a movie”?

    Timothy McVeigh blew up a day care center and an office building. Gandhi broke an empire. Mandela broke apartheid. I don’t normally recommend Wikipedia, but if you’re at all interested in any of this, that would be one place to start. Invest five minutes of your life in a clearer understanding of history. Please.

  4. Raymond Rundus Says:

    Thanks, Gene Smith (who is the “Senior Editorial Writer” for the “Observer”), for your sidebars.
    I believe that the life of William Ernest Henley is in some ways iconic for the age he lived in. Like Browning, Tennyson, and others, he created substantial work in a variety of genres: poetry, essays, criticism, fiction, and on and on. He lived in an age that championed heroic effort, that made Prometheus (Shelley), Don Juan (Byron), King Arthur (Tennyson), Shakespeare’s Caliban and Rabbi Ben Ezra (Browning) and even the monstrous being created by Victor Frankenstein (Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley) exemplars of what might be achieved through unvanquishable ambition. It has sometimes been referred to as the “Strenuous Age,” and Teddy Roosevelt and William Randolph Hearst were later beneficiaries of it. It manifested itself also in the desire for national expansion, with the “British Empire” (on which the sun never sets) congruent to the settling of the Prairie and Western states in the USA (“Manifest Destiny”).
    Henley’s life story is a heroic one. Maybe it is time for a new biography?


  5. Raymond Rundus Says:

    I ought perhaps also to have mentioned Henley’s close friendship with Robert Louis Stevenson. Both became strong and successful men who were invalids in their childhoods. (Henley is widely regarded as the model for Long John Silver in “Treasure Island.”) Further, in his later years of the short life afforded him, Henley became greatly enamored of Rudyard Kipling, whose intimate celebrations of the long British “Raj” period in the history of the struggles of the nation of India for severance and independence is a great story in and of itself. “East is East, and West is West, And Ne’er the Twain shall meet.”


  6. fayettenam hoe Says:

    maybe the poem you digest is not reflectecting upon the society that it represents

  7. fayettenam hoe Says:

    try walking the streets of this overly influenced town, maybe your poetry may ring a bell

  8. roulette strategi Says:

    Sometimes it’s really that simple, isn’t it? I feel a little stupid for not thinking of this myself/earlier, though.

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