Agonizomai: Invictus and Pelagius

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Invictus and Pelagius

It's hard to know what made people from history actually tick, so affording a Pelagian mindset to W.E. Henley is, perhaps, a bit uncharitable of me.

Henley was a poet and teacher and literary editor of the late 19th century, whose own life was full of grief and difficulty. For example, he had tuberculosis of the bone which led to the amputation of one leg below the knee. And he was hospitalized for 3 years because of an infection in the one good foot he had left. It was only thanks to the nascent theories of Lister that he managed to avoid losing his only remaining leg.

Then there was the case of his little daughter, Margaret who died at age 5, and who was the inspiration for Barrie's book "Peter Pan" and the seminal author of the name "Wendy", coined for the book, when she used the term "fwendy-wendy" of the visiting Barrie.

Henley was a great bear of a man, a red-headed whirlwind and a force of nature who inspired the one-legged Long John Silver of his friend W.L. Stevenson's "Treasure Island". Throughout his vocation as and editor he was a contemporary and a friend of many, including T.E. Brown, R.L. Stevenson and R. Kipling. He died at 53 in 1903.

Recently, his poem "Invictus" was re-popularized in the movie of the same name, starring Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman. It is also said the the poem was kept in his cell by Nelson Mandela during his long incarceration.

All this brings me to the question of whether it is the indomitable human spirit, or the broken and contrite man that God regards. Is it the "I can do it" mentality that is fruitful for eternity or the "God can do it through me" mindset that is truly beautiful? Was Pelagius right or does Augustine's view of grace hold true? Judge for yourselves...


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 punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of may soul.

W. E. Henley


Blogger Christina Langella said...


I am a regular reader of your blog however this is my first comment.

This was a very powerful post that highlights the contrast between the two teachings. And, it is certainly very telling of the kind of thing that made him "tick".

I thank God for the God of the Bible -- the one who has regard for the weak. The one who promises not to despise the broken heart and the contrite spirit.

I suppose so long as we have a story to tell, and strength to lean on there is not much we can know of His amazing grace.

Thank you for your post.


2:14 pm  
Blogger agonizomai said...


It's nice to hear from you and I'm glad you enjoy the blog.

Most of my readers eschew commenting; I think it's because I don't openly solicit them most of the time. Usually its only when people get mad at me for something I've said that the comments come.

I'm with you on the question of God being made strength in our weakness. I especially love the quiet, "anonymous" saints whose souls have been plowed by the loving chastisement of God.

Unfortunately, Christina, I will be ceasing to blog for the summer - and probably for good by the middle of the month. But there is a lot of material here to review and your comments will always be welcome.



5:47 pm  
Blogger agonizomai said...

The Never Fairy,

Your comment was not published because it contained a link to a commercial site promoting a book. The Agonizomai site is deliberately kept ad-free.

I do, however acknowledge and thank you for pointing out that it was the play "Peter Pan" which came first, and then the book. Corrections and clarifications of fact are always welcome here.



5:41 pm  

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