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William Ernest Henley

(1849 - 1902 / Gloucester / England)

William Ernest Henley
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William Ernest Henley (August 23, 1849 - July 11, 1903) was a British poet, critic and editor.

Henley was born in Gloucester and educated at the Crypt Grammar School. The school was a poor relation of the Cathedral School, and Henley indicated its shortcomings in his article (Pall Mall Magazine, Nov. 1900) on T. E. Brown the poet, who was headmaster there for a brief period. Brown's appointment was a stroke of luck for Henley, for whom it represented a first acquaintance with a man of genius. "He was singularly kind to me at a moment when I needed kindness even more than I needed encouragement." Brown did him the essential service of lending him books. Henley was no classical ... more »

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Quotations

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  • ''What have I done for you,
    England, my England?
    What is there I would not do,
    England, my own?''
    William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), British poet, critic, editor. England, My England (l. 1-4). . . Oxford Book of English Verse, The, 1250-1918. S...
  • For it's home, dearie, home—it's home I want to be.
    Our topsails are hoisted, and we'll away to sea.
    O, the oak and the ash and the bonnie birken tree
    They're all growing gre...
    William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), British poet, critic, editor. Falmouth (l. 23-26). . . Modern British Poetry. Louis Untermeyer, ed. (7th rev. e...
  • O, there's a wind a-blowing, a-blowing from the west,
    And that of all the winds is the one I like the best,
    For it blows at our backs, and it shakes our pennon free,
    And it soon w...
    William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), British poet, critic, editor. Falmouth (l. 19-22). . . Modern British Poetry. Louis Untermeyer, ed. (7th rev. e...
  • ''Madam Life's a piece in bloom
    Death goes dogging everywhere:
    She's the tenant of the room,
    He's the ruffian on the stair.''
    William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), British poet, critic, editor. Madam Life's a Piece in Bloom (l. 1-4). . . Oxford Book of Death, The. D. J. Enri...
  • ''It's up the spout and Charley Wag
    With wipes and tickers and what not
    Until the squeezer nips your scrag,
    Booze and the blowens cop the lot.''
    William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), British poet, critic, editor. Villon's Straight Tip to All Cross Coves (l. 25-28). . . Faber Book of Comic Vers...
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  • Manuel Rosenbaum (5/22/2014 4:36:00 PM)

    In 2004, at age 75, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. one of the things that helped me was remembering Invictus which I had memorized as a teenager. It gave me the inner strength and courage to fight back and survive!

  • Charles Darnell (7/3/2013 4:12:00 PM)

    In answer to Suresh, I believe Henley was referring to death with no afterlife. If you place his life within a historical context, the theory of Evolution had emerged as a dominate force in science. Many people despaired that the theory killed the idea of God. They came to think that there was no God, heaven, or indeed any kind of life after death. I think Henley embraced this and hence the line. This idea is further re-enforced by his final line I am the captain of my soul...in other words, I am responsible for my life, my actions, my spirit and answerable to myself (not to God) .
    This is one of my all time favorite poems.

  • Sharon Coakley (3/19/2013 2:38:00 AM)

    to me this poet had a will to fight. he did not let his struggles no matter how hard it seemed conquered him. He seem very much in touch with pain and hardship and some how his spirit is unbreakable.

  • Jed Mills (2/12/2013 4:00:00 PM)

    I find that the life of this man is very interesting and sad.

  • Suresh Bala (7/5/2010 8:38:00 AM)

    Invictus:

    Can someone elaborate the line about the 'Horror of the shade'? Is this a biblical reference?

  • Serene Waters (1/3/2010 2:18:00 AM)

    I just saw the phenomenal movie Invictus five hours ago. This movie, about Nelson Mandela and his ressurrection from being a prisoner to being the president of South Africa, show that iron bars can not stop some men.
    He rehearsed the words of hope from his prison cell in the Poem Invictus, and the power of spirit over matter was manifested. As president, he also quelled the post-apartheid tension, transforming enemies into friends. It is a story about someone with a vision of an ideal world who was able to embrace his nation, both black and white, as his family. His heart will not be forgotten, because without people like him a better world will never come. You will feel so uplifted by this movie! ! !

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