Ep. 17 – “Invictus” vs. “The Soul’s Captain”
In this episode, listen to two powerful poems—the famous “Invictus” along with Elder Orson F. Whitney’s inspired response to it.
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- “Invictus” is a powerful poem that helped sustain Nelson Mandela through his many trials
- The final stanza reads, “It matters not how straight the gate, / How charged with punishments the scroll, / I am the master of my fate, / I am the captain of my soul.”
- “The Soul’s Captain” is another powerful poem written by Elder Orson F. Whitney in response to “Invictus”
- The first two stanzas read, “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— / The God who died that man might live / And endless glory share.”
- Quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley
- “When all is said and done, when all the legions of the ages have passed in review, when man’s terrible inhumanity to man has been chronicled, when God’s great love for His children has been measured, then above all stands the lone figure of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world, the Savior of mankind, the living Son of the living God, the Prince of Peace, the Holy One.”
- Make Jesus Christ the captain of your soul by humbly asking God for help with something.
Many people are familiar with the inspiring poem “Invictus,” but did you know that a modern-day apostle wrote a poem in response to it? In this short episode, you can find inspiration from both poems as you ponder the question, “Who is the captain of my soul?”
I’m Liz Kazandzhy, and you’re listening to the cozy little podcast “Latter-day Saint Book Nook,” where we talk about books from a gospel perspective. Whether fiction or nonfiction, religious or not, great books are like wells of wisdom just waiting to be drawn from, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. So if you love books, and you love the gospel of Jesus Christ, you’re in the right place. Come and learn from the best books to help you live your best life!
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Alright, so I would normally do a book review episode today, but I’ve been super busy these past couple weeks and wasn’t able to have that ready today. But I still wanted to offer you at least something today, so I’m going to share two amazing poems, “Invictus” and “The Soul’s Captain.”
So, you’ve probably heard of the first one, “Invictus”—it was written in 1875 by William Ernest Henley and was especially inspirational to Nelson Mandela during his many years of unjust imprisonment in South Africa. It’s really powerful, and I’ve always liked it ever since I first read it. Now, the second one, “The Soul’s Captain,” is a response to “Invictus” written by Elder Orson F. Whitney, who was an apostle in the early 1900s. And, as you’ll be able to see, it’s also quite powerful—probably even more so.
So, without further ado, here is “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 straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
So that’s pretty inspiring, right? It encourages us to take responsibility for our lives and not give up no matter what. But that being said, when Elder Orson F. Whitney read this, he noticed the subtle flaws in it, at least doctrinally, in that it focuses so much on the individual and not enough on God. And so he wrote the following poem, “The Soul’s Captain,” as a response. And here is that poem.
“The Soul’s Captain”
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—
The 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.
Isn’t that powerful? I still like the poem “Invictus,” and I always will. But I love Elder Whitney’s response that brings us to a higher level and helps us remember who really should be the captain of our souls.
Quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley
And by the way, I also found this great quote by President Gordon B. Hinckley about these two poems:
[Invictus] is a great poem. It places upon the individual the responsibility for what he does with his life. Through these many years, when I have been faced with difficult choices I have repeated these stirring words. But on the other hand, it may sound arrogant and conceited in terms of the Atonement. Orson F. Whitney, of the Quorum of the Twelve of many years ago, so regarded it and wrote a marvelous response using the same poetic meter and entitling his verse “The Soul’s Captain.”
So it is. When all is said and done, when all the legions of the ages have passed in review, when man’s terrible inhumanity to man has been chronicled, when God’s great love for His children has been measured, then above all stands the lone figure of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world, the Savior of mankind, the living Son of the living God, the Prince of Peace, the Holy One.
And with that in mind, I want to invite you to do something this week to make Jesus Christ your captain. Instead of trudging forward on your own, with head unbowed in pride, choose to humbly bow your head in prayer and ask God to help you with something that you need help with.
Well, that’s all for today. I should be back with a full-length episode next week about the incredible book, The Hiding Place, so be sure not to miss that. And in the meantime, have a wonderful week!
Thanks for listening to Latter-day Saint Book Nook, hosted by Liz Kazandzhy! If you enjoyed this episode and you’d like to support the podcast, please share it with others, post about it on social media, or leave a rating and review. You can also visit ldsbooknook.com to stay up to date with me and the podcast. Thanks again, and I’ll talk to you next time!