The arrows and swords of life will rain down on the weak and strong searching for the weakest to destroy who will invariably betray their position by childlike calls of help. The character of man is truly tested under adversity and a man who fights for principle will never give the enemy an inch of spirit of body
Under the bludgeonings of chance:
The only thing in life to expect is the unexpected and a life without risk is no life at all. Injustice must be fought at every level but it comes with a price that some cannot bear. However should no adversity come with change then it would make one wonder if in fact any real change had occurred.
My head is bloody, but unbowed:
Life will cause damage to our physical well being and bring us the experience of physical pain but the symbolic failiure to bow the head talk to the invincibility of our spirit which no man made torture device can subdue. A man may be stripped of his wealth, his physical freedom but only God can take his spirit and the unbowing of the head represents this ulitimate act of defiance of god over man.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears:
Our spirit enters this world as we are born, travels with us on our journey and exits as we encounter death. Peace and everlasting love greet our spirit as it transitions back to where it came from helping us reflect on the spiritual education we received by walking over barbed wires, through tunnels of fire and never ending tragedy. All of these experiential phases help mold the evolution of our spirit preparing it for its next stage. ‘Beyond’ confirms the finality of life’s suffering and gives hope to the tortured spirit that tranquility is inevitable
Looms but the Horror of the shade:
The fear of death is what universally impedes the living of a fearless life and the living of a fearless life is a life less lived. We all pass through the exit gate called death only to be reborn and continue on out spiritual journey. There is ultimately nothing to fear but the ‘horror of the shade’ which will comfort and soothe the angst of life. Fear not death for it is a place of ultimate peace
And yet the menace of the years:
When tragedy strikes early it is like the mountaineer losing his leg a third of the way up the mountainside. He cannot turn back and has no choice to continue to the summit. The uncertainity, the fear of failiure, the isolation and the injustice of life might all seem like a load too heavy to bear, that many would jettison. These gifts of deprivation are sparingly dispersed and provide rare opportunities to demonstrate the heroic nature of man’s spirit that only a few of the privelaged get to experience.
Finds and shall find me unafraid:
Feel no fear, show no fear and have no fear for what is it really that man fears. Death. Give man death and he will have no fear. Life is the precursor of death for without life there would be no death and without death there would be no life. We cannot be afraid of the gift of life for when it is gone any opportunity to make change is also forfeited. Mandela faced 27 years in jail and often referred specifically to these lines to overcome his moments of fear. He knew his transcendence would come in time and that what would be remembered among the many struggles of his life was the manner and bravery he showed in the face of overwhelmingly odds. This is my opinion was his greatest gift that all challenges are surmountable when confronted with dignity and bravery.
It matters not how strait the gate:
It does not matter what happens to you in life it is how you deal with it that counts. William Earnest Henley was 17 years old when he had his leg amputated at the London Hospital and refused to accept that this harshest of events would defeat him. Whatever challenge, hurdle or obstacle life presents is irrelevant. What matters and what people remember is how you overcame, navigated and defeated the roadblock turning it into one of your life’s stepping stones.
How charged with punishments the scroll:
The ultimate arbiter is God and whatever manmade scrolls are used to document the earthly life of a man become obsolete the moment our spirit transcends when the only thing that counts in the eyes of the spirit are the goodness of the intentions your heart held and only god knew. Mandela was charged with murder and treason and given a record that today seems unbelievable to the youth of the world. However one of the deeper messages of this part of the poem is that even today there is another ‘Nelson Mandela” living under the same cloud of suspicion and oppression with the same labels of murderer and terrorist attached. One of his lessons to us all which he lived when he was released was to reach out to the pariahs of society and do as Jesus did which was to welcome the sinners.
I am the master of my fate:
Injustice happens to us all in life to varying degrees and when viewed as opportunity becomes a force that allows us to take responsibility and use the experience to grow. Life is the raft on which our spirit sails and we have the choice to navigate that course but all it requires is that we actually make that decision. Once we have taken that spiritual step and altered the course of the ship we have now become the master of the vessel steering it through the storms of life toward our own fate.
I am the captain of my soul:
Mandela faced circumstances that would have crushed many men but he refused to capitulate to the injustice and cruelty of the system that persecuted his people for many centuries. His spirit was proud and he had no question that truth was on his side. They took his family, they took his livelihood, they took his liberty but they could not take his spirit because that belonged to God and Mandela had taken charge of his spirit while on earth. He was the captain of his soul of which he made his jailors sure.