Apr 4, 2010

In the Arena

I wandered down to the little hole-in-the-wall coffee shop on Petrie Terrace this morning to get some flat whites and cappucinos for the brave souls of my cast & crew, who'd begun work nice and early at 8am for bump-in (that's the ol' theatrical parlance for "build the set and do the lights and props and stuff").

I noticed a poem pinned to the side of the bench.

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.

Sure, someone probably had just seen Invictus and been inspired by Morgan Freeman's dulcet tones to put up the eponymous poem. But it was certainly nice to read in the early morning autumn sunshine, while gearing up for a challenging week ahead.

Checking Wikipedia this evening, I was disappointed to read that the filmmakers made up the part in the movie about Nelson Mandela inspiring the Springboks to rugby glory with William Ernest Henley's verse. That was until I read what Mandela actually gave captain Francois Pienaar to use as literary rallying cry:

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.
 -Theodore Roosevelt, 1910.

No wonder the Springboks won that World Cup.

And as much as I think Nelson Mandela is wonderful...

....I think this week is going to be a Teddy Roosevelt kind of week.


  1. Mandela knew his audience, those lilywhite rugger boys would have responded better to the Ted. Though the Kiwis will tell you the Boks won that RWC cos they all got sabotaged by food poisoning by a waitress called Susie. Who, as it turned out, didn't exist.

  2. According to cracked.com Teddy Roosevelt was hard-fighting, hard-drinking, hard-farting kinda president who killed bears with his fists. Now, this is utterly inaccurate but I like the fictional Teddy better than the real one

  3. I need that fist-killing-bear powers this week!

  4. Hi GC,
    All the best for opening night tomorrow!
    I wish I could be there, but have other commitments. I'm planning to be there with a crew on Sat. 18th instead.
    Break a leg (but not a foot)!