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 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. — William Ernest Henley

William Ernet Henley (1849-1903) English poet, editor, and critic

Henley experienced numerous unfortunate circumstances in his life. His father died when Henley was 19. Henley’s daughter died at the age of five years. Henley himself suffered from tuberculosis of the bone. While he was still in his teens, his left leg was amputated below the knee.  When he was 24, his right foot had to be amputated as well.  It was at this time that he wrote Invictus.

NOTE: For help with unfamiliar words in this poem, see the annotated version.