by William Ernest 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.

About the Author

William Ernest Henley (1849-1903) was born in Gloucester, England. When he was twelve, he was diagnosed with a bad type of arthritis, and had to get one of his legs amputated. While recovering in the hospital, he started writing poetry, including "Invictus". In Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, he apparently created the Long John Silver character after Henley. He died because of tuberculosis in 1903.


The theme of this poem is that no matter what happens to a person, no matter what they have to deal with, they are in control of their lives. Thanks to the grace of God, they are the "master of their fate" and the "captain of their soul."
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