(Poem #221) 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.
Note: The title is Latin for 'unconquerable' This is undoubtedly Henley's most famous poem, and his most popular. Henley work is at its best, I feel, when steeped in an atmosphere of savage gloom, and today's poem is no exception. 'Invicitus' is sweeping; passionate; larger than life in a way that few modern poems can get away with. It is also an oft quoted poem, lines of it having almost passed into the language. While these are invariably the ones that involve hurling defiance into the teeth of the storm, note that the poem itself hinges just as strongly on the 'storm' itself. It is the tension between the strongly contrastive elements that raises 'Invicitus' from a series of platitudes to a great poem. m. Biography: See poem #117 Notes: But what inspired "Invictus" ?? At the age of 12 Henley became a victim of tuberculosis of the bone. In spite of it all, in 1867 he successfully passed the Oxford local examination as a senior student. But a hospital was to be Henley's University. His diseased foot, treated by crude methods, had to be amputated directly below the knee. Worse yet, physians announced the only way to save his life was to amputate the other also. Henley fought this with all his spirit. He came out with his foot and his life. He was dicharged in 1875, and was able to lead an active life for nearly 30 years, though he was of course a cripple. With an artificial foot, he suffered horribly all his life from his disease before it killed him at 54. "Invictus" was written from a hospital bed. -- <[broken link] http://www2.rpa.net/~jlungu/poem.htm> Links: <http://elnom.com/eom/invictus.html> No comment.