Back to all news
Written by:
Trinity Hall
30 Apr 2020

Invictus, by William Ernest Henley

Rumoured to have been one of the late Nelson Mandela’s favourites, Invictus by William Ernest Henley, is one of the few poems in my life that continues to speak, especially in times of crisis. It is the best pep-talk I have.

Each stanza begins with a challenge, or a confronting circumstance, that may leave one’s soul scarred, conquered, bowed or afraid. And yet, every single time, the last line in the stanza turns. It offers an alternative – a subversive and audacious will that is resolute and unshaken.

This poem is not about wishful thinking or denial. This is fighting talk. This is a poem about perseverance and inner strength. It encourages me to dig deep, often when I feel I have nothing left.

No matter what I have faced in my life – whether it be racism, heartbreak or any kind of heart-wrenching disappointment- these words have bid me apprehend and speak them as my own. It doesn’t encourage the reader to shy away from the difficulties or the horrors of life. It affirms that dark times will come. However, in confronting these tests and in facing them head-on, where I can, with defiance, I too can choose to be unconquerable, unbowed and unafraid. Because, I too, “am the master of my fate; / I am the captain of my soul”.

Dora Jejay is studying theology at Trinity Hall and is in training for ministry at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. She is also on attachment with the College Chapel. Before offering herself for ordination Dora trained and worked as an actress.