William Ernest Henley

(1849 - 1902 / Gloucester / England)


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
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Comments about this poem (Invictus by William Ernest Henley )

  • Rookie Athena Jobe (2/23/2010 9:12:00 AM)

    Ever since I heard this poem, it instantly became my favorite..I just love that it has a big impact on me and whenever I am down, disappointed and seems to lose my faith because of all the problems, hardships I encountered, I always recite it in my mind and voila! it will lift my spirits up and again, I am ready to face the world however hard it may seem to be..Because for me the meaning of the poem is for us to stand for what we believe is right, and to have that courage to get up how many times we may have fallen..it means walking with your head high amidst all the rejections, all the pain..That no matter what happens, you will never give up, you will keep on fighting and you will never be defeated. (Report) Reply

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  • Rookie Didier Bessala (2/14/2010 10:46:00 AM)

    How to get people to be better than what they think they can be? How do we inspire ourselves to greatness when nothing else will do?
    My daily living is inspired from that poem. It gets me motivated, boosts my mind, and helps me to stand still whatever obstacle i face or go through... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Martin Maina (2/12/2010 1:15:00 PM)

    Some say faith is believing on what that cannot be seen, others say it replaces ignorance. Be that as it may, it forms the different religions we have in this world. What I never understand is why man always pays much detail on what that divides than unites. Why should colour, religion or tribe be the basis of judgement.
    From my prospective, the definition of Henley's 'unconquerable soul' means a soul free from all these vices. A soul free from racial and religious prejudice. And the last two lines were just the icing to the cake.
    This poem admits to the reality of the various world atrocities and helps us to move on and push hard even when nothing seems to make sense. I believe his words will be a lantern to my everyday life as a student abroad in India and a good source of inspiration to all who read it. Viva la Henley! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Johnny Walker (2/6/2010 3:06:00 AM)

    A nice and simple poem.

    It seems to me the poet has outgrown the pettiness of organized religion. There is a particular loftiness to his use of the word 'gods'.

    Yes, god is not limited by a particular name or a driving licence number. We may worship one god or several gods as we choose; we may worship the same god under different names; and so on. Nobody should be saying, this is god, that is not god, this is the only god, that god is false, etc.

    Unfortunately even today there are people who subscribe to the backward belief that theirs is the only god and that all other beliefs are false; this is the main cause for most problems we see on this planet.

    Even here we can see people are fighting to lay claim to Henley's god, totally overlooking the real theme of his poem.

    Please accept the poem without worrying about which god or gods he is referring to. That is not the point of this poem. Don't attach labels like Un-X or Not Un-X. Neither of these terms is flattering.

    Should the Coca Cola company go around labelling other drinks like water, milk, tea, coffee, wine, etc. as Un-Coke?

    Should we be hearing things like:

    'Hey, he is drinking an Un-Coke. We should ban all Un-Cokes as false drinks'.

    'No, that is not Un-Coke. He only poured it from the Coke bottle into a glass. His soul is still safe'.

    Don't you see how silly these comments sound? Your Un-religion comments are equally ridiculous. Please elevate your thinking and avoid imposing your religious beliefs on others. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Somi Omowo (2/3/2010 10:30:00 PM)

    It surely is a most beautiful poem and the film really brings out its true meaning and its application to life and its challenges. I agree with Susan whole-heartedly. I see nothing unchristian of this poem. Indeed it is only when a Christian has mastered his soul can he truly forgive- an attribute Mandela showed so well in the film.
    Life will only be conquered by those who have mastered the truths of this poem be they Christian, Moslem or otherwise (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Terry Catterall (1/31/2010 4:28:00 AM)

    To me the poem is a powerful way of saying that we (human beings) always have choice- no matter what situation we might find ourselves in! We are the masters of our fate and the captain of our soul if we choose to be! ! I love it. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Carlota Hernandez (1/30/2010 4:24:00 PM)

    Maybe stoicism is not the Universal Truth, but it's the less selfish of attitudes towards the others. I know it well, I used to know somebody who behave and thought like that. The poem goes deeper than simply encouraging to have a good time. It's full of significance for those who strive for personal evolution and ideals. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Enrique Snyder (1/25/2010 11:35:00 AM)

    This poem could be written by Lucio Aneo Seneca. It is full of the spirit of estoicism.
    Really can inspire to them that are crossing in dificulties, something that is common in our days. But don't think that the stoicism is the Universal Truth. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Samuel Gioia (1/22/2010 11:01:00 AM)

    This poem can be read in many ways, that is what is beautiful about it. Great literature reveals the reader in the reading of it. It is natural to me to read this as a meditation on the crucifixion of Jesus although that may not be the author's intent. I also love the reading of it in the movie by this title. It suggests that the mastery spoken of in the poem is mastery of one's own emotions in adversity including the impulse to hate and find revenge. MLK said, 'Let no man lower you so far as to make you hate him.' The movie is a very original and creative meditation on the poem. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 0 Points Bob Blackwell (1/21/2010 2:31:00 AM)

    Inspiring poem which simply means, we must strive to make each day a good one no matter what our circumstances maybe. How we think determines how we feel! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie John Handley (1/17/2010 10:18:00 PM)

    Having bibles may or may not be good, living by the message is what makes a person stand out from others. That is what I read in this lovely poem.

    BTW I am a souf efrican who has left my place of birth and still sees great injustices and inequallity in the country (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Susan Grave (1/9/2010 7:40:00 AM)

    I'd like to make a comment about those who are frequently bringing in 'stories' about this poem being non-Christian. It is a poem of hope, much as the Bible should be.. but those idiots out there who have never been born & brought up in southern Africa should realise that the Bible was so often completely misinterpreted and the Africa into which Mandela was born, the Holy Book, was interpreted completely incorrectly! ! Blacks are inferior to whites! What a load of sh**. The movie about Madiba and Francois Pienaar was superbly portrayed.
    BTW I have several Bibles in my home: -) And, am a white woman of Catholic faith who just loves living on the continent of her birth. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Neville Lines (1/8/2010 3:20:00 AM)

    I have been familiar all my life with 'Invictus' I recalled it to mind several times when it helped me through bad times. There is a lot of rot and waffle in some of the comments with people imposing their religious and other beliefs.

    My interpretation of Henley is simply this - BE STRONG AND TAKE COURAGE (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Serene Waters (1/3/2010 11:54:00 PM)

    I just saw the phenomenal movie Invictus, which drew its title from the poem. The movie, about Nelson Mandela and his resurrection from being a prisoner of his country to being its president, showed that truly, he was the 'master of [his] fate and the captain of [his] soul.' He rehearsed the words of hope from Invictus, in his prison cell and the power of spirit over matter was manifested.
    As president, he helped the country to unite during a very tense post-aparthied time. Through his wisdom and depth of heart, he was able to transform enemies into friends. He was able to embrace his nation, both black and white as one family. This movie was very inspirational and made it look like peace is possible. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Johan Matias (1/3/2010 10:36:00 AM)

    This is truly great and inspiring poem. It gives strength in middle of trouble and raises interesting questions. But I must say that many commentators read a bit too much to it and especially are convinced of their own interpretation. Of course I too give it plenty more meaning than there is and would like people to agree. lol

    To put it simply I think the main point is: 'No matter what happens, I am bold and confident me and do what I do. Which is nice.' It does not state if any gods do exists or even about free will.

    'I am the captain of my soul.' is interesting expression. 'Soul' refers to human mental faculty. It could refer to religious entity maybe eternal being, but not necessary. 'Captain of soul' suggests that there is some supreme decision maker separate from the soul. But as it is 'I', the whole sentence seems to emphasize that there is only me and no one else. 'I am the master of my fate' could also only emphasize that there is no one else in control. Plainly: 'I am me and I do what I do*

    Strictly speaking there is nothing that forces one to interpret free will or lack of predetermined destiny. Sure the poem seems to praise free will on the first reading. But there is very little hint about the nature of 'I'. There is nothing to suggest that 'I' could decide to be any different than he/she is. Or that he/she could make different decisions. On the contrary 'I' seems very permanent and unchangeable. Maybe 'I' is what 'I' is just because 'I' is like that, not because he/she chooses to be like that.

    Sure for me more easy and natural interpretation is that one can choose his/her own destiny without god or any other authority and disregard of the circumstances. But that is just me. The way I am. lol (Report) Reply

  • Rookie George Kirui (1/3/2010 4:28:00 AM)

    I agree; this is such a great poem. I do not see any crisis of faith in it but rather a person who has balanced his faith to address a greater audience...whatever god may be.... clearly brings a concept of existence of many believes. The poem remains nourishing to all religious sects...from the right wing Muslim to the christian sycophants. The bottom line is that we shape our destiny, that the greatest faith is the faith in one to self liberate or destruct and I believe that is also the baseline for the movie Invictus. For those with a bias of thinking along religious lines, Job in the bible was unbowed; his questioning of the existence of God did not imply a crisis of faith but rather a stronger faith; his unbowedness did not result to lessening of pain but rather an increase.......he was the captain of his soul. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Eric Mccloud (12/28/2009 10:06:00 PM)

    This is such a great poem. I first learned it as a pledge of my beloved fraternity A Phi A almost 20 years ago. It helps to inspire you to be a man of strong courage and have a will to endure no matter what obstacles may be placed in your path. These obstacles are life's lessons that we will all face during our journey. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Julie Bienlien (12/28/2009 7:33:00 PM)

    I do not see a defiance of life or death, or a crisis of faith. I see a defiance of predetermined destiny. Do not bow your heads to circumstance; rather, determine your own destiny by choosing your own path and your own reactions to the black pit called life that lies between the poles of birth and death. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Tommy Geske (12/25/2009 12:41:00 PM)

    David Austin,

    I agree with your comments regarding Invictus. However, you say it is death that he is defying. It seems to me that it is life that he is defying.

    Death can be a welcome friend at the end of suffering. However Henley faces eveyr challenge that life brings to him without a bowing his head. Driven forward by the fact that he is the 'master of his fate' and 'the captain of his soul.'

    Some have commented about a crisis of faith. But it seems to me that Henley is thanking God for the strength that does imbue him, though may not know who it is that brings him such strength he acknowledges his being and presence.

    It interesting that many comments here discuss the relevance of God in Henley's equation. The truth is faith is just that, faith. Though we personally may be convinced, we can never be certain. There is always an element of truth in God that just can not be proven totally, hence we call it 'faith in God.'

    The element of certainty in God is a myth. I think Henley balances this reality quite well, showing us all that in the end, it is up to to make certain that our soul is not conquered by the harsh realities that we call life.

    Just my thoughts though, sir............. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Marius Meyer (12/24/2009 8:56:00 PM)

    And this is exactly why I love poetry. Though I wish my English were of such a caliber that I would write poetry myself, but as such I will stick with the poetry of sound (music) . I have read through the comments again, and this has only reestablished my love for this poem. It has excited and urged people to think and evaluate it and was able to produce a whole myriad of emotions and beliefs. I think I might commit this poem to memory.

    You are most welcome Basra :) .

    And Will, you bring up a most fascinating argument. I definitely can see that, and can agree with that. I have read and analyzed the poem again and found that for me the speaker of the poem is President Mandela and not Henley. An interesting discovery on my part but not surprising seeing as I am South African. As such, what you wrote rings very true.

    Again, this will be one of the poems I have decided to commit to memory. (Report) Reply

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