By: William Ernest Hensly
Born in Gloucester, England, poet, editor, and critic William Ernest Henley was educated at Crypt Grammar School, where he studied with the poet T.E. Brown, and the University of St. Andrews. At age 12 Henley was diagnosed with tubercular arthritis that necessitated the amputation of one of his legs just below the knee; the other foot was saved only through a radical surgery performed by Joseph Lister. As he healed in the infirmary, Henley began to write poems, including "Invictus." Henley was a close friend of Robert Louis Stevenson, who reportedly based his Long John Silver character in Treasure Island in part on Henley.
Invictus By William Ernest Hensley
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.
Background for the poem Invictus
"Invictus" is a short Victorian poem by the English poet William Ernest Henley (1849–1903). It was written in 1875 and published in 1888 — originally with no title — in his first volume of poems, Book of Verses, in the section Life and Death (Echoes). Early printings contained a dedication To R. T. H. B. —a reference to Robert Thomas Hamilton Bruce (1846–1899), a successful Scottish flour merchant, baker, and literary patron. The title "Invictus" (Latin for "unconquered") was added by editor Arthur Quiller-Couch when the poem was included in The Oxford Book of English Verse.
Definitions of some words
Winced/ wincing: to draw back or tense the body, as from pain or from ablow; start; flinch.
Looms/ looming: something seenindistinctly at a distance or through a fog
Menace: something that threatens to cause evil, harm, injury,etc.; a threat