If you haven’t seen Invictus yet, you should. And if you have, then you will recognize the following poem (titled “Invictus”) by William Ernest Henley:
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.
(Read more about the poem here.)
What you might not know is that while Nelson Mandela did admire this poem, it was not the one that he gave to Francois Pienaar to inspire him before the 1995 Rugby World Cup. What he actually gave him was the following excerpt from a speech given by Teddy Roosevelt on April 23, 1910 at the Sorbonne in Paris:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
The full speech is called “The Man in the Arena”, and more information as well as the entire text can be found here.