Tuesday, 10 December 2013


The refusal of men and women to compete in sport with
apartheid South Africa was a powerful weapon
in the fight against racial discrimination. 

INVICTVS is the poem that Nelson Mandela held in his heart during his 27 years in prison. It was written in 1875 by the poet W. E. Henley (1849 - 1903) at the end of a two year stay in hospital. The word INVICTVS is from the Latin and means Unconquered.

It is from INVICTVS that President Obama quoted a few lines today in South Africa. It was a fine tribute that was paid in a lengthy address by the president of a once partially enslaved nation to the memory of the late president of another once partially enslaved nation and to his family; and at the same time to South Africa's citizens, to a forward looking people comprising peoples of all colours and backgrounds.

The greatest achievement of Nelson Mandela, and there were many, is that his policies and his courage stopped a bloody civil war from erupting. We need only to look at Syria, for example, to see the potential disaster that could have all too easily flared up in South Africa; a civil war between blacks and browns and whites, and between tribes and factions. For me this is the spirit of INVICTVS and the legacy of the man who will always be remembered as the nation's father.


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.


  1. I only discovered this poem this week. It was an instant hit with me.

  2. It's as if it was written for Mandela. Every line seems to relate to him.

  3. Yes, it is very powerful. I like it. I have never been aware of this poem before. Thank you.

  4. And also a 'thank you' to you for coming here to read it.


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