It’s Friday, which means sharing something I love. It isn’t easy to share this poem. You see, it’s not very ‘Christian’.
In fact, the narrator seems determined to defy God, refusing salvation and clinging to his own strength and fearlessness. It is a poem that praises humanity and the human condition, and exults it to a status far above any deity that may exist.
And yet, I like it.
Technically, it’s well written and appealing. But beyond that, it is extremely emotive. It managed to conjure feeling in only a few stanzas. It paints images and summons memory and even desire.
It is a poem that can’t be ignored, and can’t be forgotten.
It carries a sentiment so strong, that the reader is forced to think hard about whether they agree or disagree.
It’s a poem which you want to agree with. I want to agree with it! I deeply admire courage and heroism. I applaud bravery and stamina and perseverance.
In one sense, I think we can learn a lot from this poem.
And yet, I don’t – can’t – praise the narrator for their ‘unconquerable soul’. It sounds very heroic and Romantic and all… and perhaps in an alternative universe this poem would be my anthem.
And yet, how can I possibly, conceivably, turn my back on the God who suffered for me? The One who melted my heart and stole me to be His own?
I am not the master of my fate – and I don’t want to be the captain of my soul.
by 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.