Poem for January: Invictus (plus bonus poem)


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.

Yes, yes, I did memorize this because of the recently released Eastwood/Freeman/Damon movie. And yes, I memorized it so that I could quote from a poem that appeared in Dead Poets Society.

Initially, I dismissed this poem as being incredibly over-the-top, white-man’s-burden, straight from the Age of Empire. I mean really, where is the village? But then, I had a couple of annoying and rough days at work and the thing that was so off putting about the poem initially became my favorite thing. When I’m having a bad day, it is great fun to recite this poem dramatically, ideally at top volume. Although in the fell clutch of that circumstance, I actually did do a lot of complaining, which was not really wincing or crying aloud, but still probably not true to the stoic nature of the poem.

Invictus went quickly into my brain which gave me time to put to memory another poem that comes in handy:

How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes

Shel Silverstein

If you have to dry the dishes

(Such an awful boring chore)

If you have to dry the dishes

(‘Stead of going to the store)

If you have to dry the dishes

And you drop one on the floor

Maybe they won’t let you

Dry the dishes anymore

Let me just say that in my position as Administrative Coordinator (which really just means school secretary) I find reason to recite this poem on a fairly regular basis.

3 thoughts on “Poem for January: Invictus (plus bonus poem)”

  1. Is it bad that I like Shel better? I guess that since my Goodreads account is populated with all the children's lit I read – it is not that surprising! 🙂

  2. I read this with some fourth graders a while ago. You can tell some brain development had not happened for a few of them as they struggle with the sarcasm a little. I laughed outloud at it. I love Shell Silverstein. I have a few that rattle around in my head randomly – Oh I am being eaten by a boa constricture, Band-aids, and Sick (I think it is called). What? What's that you say, you say it's Saturday? Ok, I am going out to play!

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