Invictus – William Ernest Henley

Invictus is a poem written by William Ernest Henley. It was written in 1875 and published in 1888. 

When Henley was in his 20’s one of his legs required amputation due to a complication arising from tuberculosis. Immediately after his amputation he was told his another leg would require the similar procedure. He changed his doctor and was able to save his leg. His recovery took a long time, he had a lot of free time to reminisce on his childhood days which were impoverished and hard. It was during this time he wrote Invictus. Originally the poem was published without a title. The title ‘Invictus’ (the latin word for unconquerable) was added by his editor. 

Years later Nelson Mandela used to constantly recite this poem while he was imprisoned for 27 long years. This poem gave him courage and strength to endure those miserable years inside the matchbox like cell.

The theme of the poem is the will to survive in the face of a severe test. I’m not very religious but for me this poem is my bible. It gives me tranquility during my days of unrest. 

The Poem goes like this……… 

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 bludgeoning 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.

3 thoughts on “Invictus – William Ernest Henley

  1. I like the poem, I had that kind of personality in my youth, but I have changed. Not by fear or challenge, but by love. I have two children now. Like the poem about the sun persuading you to remove your coat more easily than the wind, I find I who thought I would never bow my head now often bow in humility and gratitude to the differences of those I love. I guess I’m still the captain, but I take a lot of detours for these little passengers. 🌞

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