William Ernest Henley

(1849-1903)

 

INVICTUS

 

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.

 

 

(What a thoroughly brave statement!  Yes, life is hard.  But I am a stoic!  I will not choose to give in!   Invictus means unconquered.   What makes this poem even more powerful is that the author lived it!  He is not just telling YOU how to live, he is telling himself as well.  During the 1880s and 1890s Henley was the editor of the "National Observer" and other London periodicals and he was very well regarded in literary circles.  He courageously confronted his crippling physical pain caused by tuberculosis of the bone.  When someone who disagrees with you also admires you, then you know that the admiration is doubly significant.  Yeats said of Henley: "I disagreed with him about everything, but I admired him beyond words.")