The Soul’s Captain

Everyone’s heard William Henley’s Epic poem, Invictus, which goes:

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.

But have you ever heard Orson F. Whitney’s response to it? Love it, love it, LOVE IT!

Art thou in truth? Then what of Him?
Who bought thee with His blood?
Who plunged into devouring seas
And snatched thee from the flood,
Who bore for all our fallen race
What none but Him could bear–
That God who died that man might live
And endless glory share.
Of what avail thy vaunted strength
Apart from His vast might?
Pray that His light may pierce the gloom
That thou mayest see aright.
Men are as bubbles on the wave,
As leaves upon the tree,
Thou, captain of thy soul! Forsooth,
Who gave that place to thee?
Free will is thine- free agency,
To wield for right or wrong;
But thou must answer unto Him
To whom all souls belong.
Bend to the dust that “head unbowed,”
Small part of life’s great whole,
And see in Him and Him alone,
The captain of thy soul.

Orson, you rock.

2 thoughts on “The Soul’s Captain

  1. I’m actually familiar with both Henley’s poem and Whitney’s “response, and see merit to both sides of the argument. I think my feelings with regard to Invictus are best summed up in the conclusion to James E. Faust’s April 2000 conference talk, where he quotes the poem (see http://lds.org/general-conference/2000/04/the-power-of-self-mastery). True self mastery, becoming as Henley said “the captain of my soul” is only possible through hard work AND the power of the atonement. I don’t believe Henley was discounting God’s love and power, as evidenced through his opening stanza in which he thanks “whatever gods may be” for his “unconquerable soul”.
    I realize that Whitney was pointing out an important truth — that all we are is due in part to what the Savior has done for us — but that doesn’t negate or minimize the importance of what we choose to do with what he has given us. Only through faith and self mastery do we become eligible for the full power of the Atonement in our lives.

  2. I agree. I don’t think the two ideas are mutually exclusive. I think to obtain the full measure of our potential, we need to master both principles – self mastery and the power of the atonement. Neglecting one would reduce the potential of the other.

    Excellent point!

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