Friday, December 6, 2013

A Room of My Own: Invictus

A Haiku Set for Nelson Mandela

Madiba's gone ...
a young Mandela raised
his right fist

embers glowing ...
Mandela's stories color
children's faces


1 Nelson Mandela met with the captain of the Springboks rugby team, François Pienaar,  implying that a Springboks victory in the 1995 World Cup would unite and inspire the nation. Mandela also shared with him, a British poem, titled "Invictus" ("undefeated" or "unconquered") that had inspired him during his 27 years in prison.

Below is "Invictus, " a short Victorian poem by the English poet William Ernest Henley (1849–1903):

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.

2 In South Africa, Nelson Mandela is often referred to by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, or as Tata ("Father"), and  viewed as "the father of the nation."



  1. "When I was among the crowd I raised my right fist, and there was a roar. I had not been able to do that for twenty-seven years and it gave me a surge of strength and joy ...."

    -- Mandela wrote after he was released from prison on Feb. 11, 1990

  2. Clint Eastwood made a film based on Mandela's meeting with the captain of the Springboks rugby team, François Pienaar.

    Below is excerpted from the Wikipedia entry, Invictus:

    Invictus is a 2009 biographical sports drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. The story is based on the John Carlin book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation about the events in South Africa before and during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which was hosted in that country following the dismantling of apartheid. Freeman and Damon play, respectively, South African President Nelson Mandela and François Pienaar, the captain of the South Africa rugby union team, the Springboks.[3]