I just heard about a movie called Invictus.
Featuring Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman, it’s about a rugby match between South Africa and New Zealand.
Freeman plays Nelson Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid activist who spent 27 years in prison before becoming the President of South Africa.
Invictus is an appropriate word to describe Mandela.
Invictus is Latin for “unconquered.” In his nearly 100 years, Mandela survived persecution, assaults, and setbacks that would have defeated a lesser spirit. He probably knew and appreciate the poem by William Ernest Henley that begins
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.
Back when I was in high school, struggling against parents, teachers, and peers who were trying to force me into a mold against my nature, I loved Henley’s poem “Invictus.” I memorized it and recited it every morning to give me courage for the day.
It’s been many years since I’ve thought of the poem. Reading it now I feel rather sad, knowing that I didn’t manage to escape the mold after all.
Still, it’s a great poem that deserves to be known. Read the plain version first. If any of the words are unfamiliar, see the annotated version (with definitions).
Invictus (with definitions)