William Ernest Henley suffered tuberculosis as a boy, and found himself, in 1874, aged twenty-five, an inmate/patient/guest of Edinburgh Hospital. From there he sent letters to the Cornhill Magazine as he wrote poems in irregular rhythms, describing with poignant force his experiences in hospital. Leslie Stephen, then editor, visited his contributor in hospital and took Robert Louis Stevenson, another recruit of the Cornhill, with him. In 1875, while in hospital Henley wrote Invictus.
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.
This poem was famously a source of inspiration for Nelson Mandela while imprisoned, apparently having kept the title word invictus (invincible) on a scrap of paper with him (that part not sure of...). Long/short, a worthwhile return to an amazing point in recent history (the Mandela part, not the Springboks win). Clint Eastwood's latest; Invictus.