UKArchive ID: 36553

by pronto
Originally published on May 23, 2016 in Fiction        

The fact that one cannot comment upon the Golden Egg challenge reduces it's appeal at a time when we are trying to recruit more entries. Last week's task: Take the last line of a poem and make it the first line of a new poem/prose piece. Limit 400 words.

Based on Invictus by W E Hendley

I am the captain of my soul? What’s this shit?
‘You asked for help.’
‘I meant money mate, spare change. Poetry’s no damn use to me’ said the homeless ex marine. ‘You’re ex forces aren’t you pal?’
‘Yes ‘
‘Not short of a quid are you?’
‘Then why won’t you help?’
‘I just did’ said the man ‘I was you once, it helped me.’
The homeless man looked bewildered ‘Bollocks!’
‘Suit yourself’ the man turned to leave.
‘Hang on mate how did it help?’
‘You really want to know?’
‘Yeah, I reckon.’
‘It stopped me buying alcohol'
‘But I need it mate.’
‘Bullshit! Booze only perpetuates your situation.’ The man sighed ‘what mob were you in?’
‘I was a corporal, Royal Marines. Three tours of Afghan mate, it fucked me head up.’
The man nodded knowingly ‘yeah, the Falklands did that for me.’ He paused ‘You really want help? Be here this time tomorrow.’
‘What do I do in the meantime’ the beggar wheedled.
‘You stop whining and start shining corporal’ the man left.

Peter McGee re-read the poem then screwed it up throwing it away angrily. Load of crap he thought. That bugger’s either a bible basher or a shirt lifter. I am the master of my fate? I am the Captain of my soul? Utter shite! But the words had struck home.

McGee slept poorly that night the man’s granite-hard face kept appearing before him. “If you really want help be here this time tomorrow.” Well, we’ll see gobshite.

Ex-Para Sergeant Ronald Timperly arrived promptly. ‘Well?’
‘I’ve had enough of this shit mate. What do I do?’
Timperly smiled ‘Get off your arse and come with me.’ A month later Peter McGee had his own place, psychiatric help and a job but, more importantly, a friend and mentor.

Twelve years later, now a prosperous businessman, McGee attended Ronald Timperly’s funeral. He was surprised how many ex military types were there. The preacher gave him an envelope. ‘There’s 248 of you’ he said ‘Open this and read it aloud at the end please.’

McGee knew Ronald had helped others but was stunned to see just how many.

As the coffin left they all recited in unison. By the time they got to the last lines tears were flowing freely. “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”

Invictus By William Earnest 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.”

© pronto (Pronto on OLD UKA)

UKArchive ID: 36553
Archived comments for Invictus

Mikeverdi on 24-05-2016
This is terrific stuff in my opinion, well worth the Nib and Nomination. Its a great disapointment to find so few comments on such a piece.


Author’s Reply:
Thank you Mike for your kind comment. The trend on the site seems to be for less comment and even fewer ratings. Times change I suppose. I still like posting because it's more practice and just one kind comment, nib or nomination makes it all worth while. (A does a sharp crit when one produces sub-standard stuff.) 🙂

pdemitchell on 24-05-2016
Difficult to crit this but the site is dwindling. I loved this snappy dialogue and the moving finale with the army types reading the poem – the smell of khaki. Dylan's 'do not go gentle' villanelle is another favourite. Bravo – not substandard at all. Mitch

Author’s Reply:
Thanks Mitch for your kind comments.

I,too, sense the site is fading but what to do about it? I wish I knew. Maybe a redesign and a new name? World Wide Writers mayhap? Maybe we should rage, rage against the dying of the site!


Mikeverdi on 25-05-2016
I've mentioned the site falling off on comments and posts before, I made several suggestions. One of the problems is people falling out with each other. Several of our top writers have gone on strike over another being “alowed” to post on UKA. Others have left because of “differences with others. I tried to get regular writers to post older pieces that made the grade, this may induce others to also post. New writers need to see quality writing to get them to join, in truth some of late has been not good enough…mine included. UKA is not the only site suffering a drop off. I voted against an upgrade as I don't think the money is there, I now think it may be nessersary.

Author’s Reply:
I see what you mean Mike. I feel the site could do with an update as, apart from anything else, it's rather slow and a bit dated looking. Whether or not funds are available is, of course, another matter altogether.

On the point of people falling out that's really sad. As a writer one has to learn to take the brickbats as well as the plaudits. Not everything we write will be good; even people like Hemmingway accepted that. Trying to stop anyone posting because someone else judged their work not up to standard is cruel and crass. How on earth is a writer to improve if they are not exposed to help and advice of more experienced scribes? I know I value frank crit.

Thanks for the comment Mike.