Invictus Poem by William Ernest Henley


Rating: 4.6

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.

E. James 12 September 2012

I like this poem by W. E. Henley a lot.... still, I read a response by Orson F. Whitney, that is a beautiful Christian response to Invictus. I can be the captain of my soul, or, as Carrie Underwood sang, Jesus Take the Wheel and let Him be the Captain of my soul. I prefer and have always been blessed by choosing Him. Art thou in truth? Then what of Him who bought thee with His blood? Who plunged into devouring seas And snatched thee from the flood, Who bore for all our fallen race What none but Him could bear— That God who died that man might live And endless glory share. Of what avail thy vaunted strength Apart from His vast might? Pray that His light may pierce the gloom That thou mayest see aright. Men are as bubbles on the wave, As leaves upon the tree, Thou, captain of thy soul! Forsooth, Who gave that place to thee? Free will is thine—free agency, To wield for right or wrong; But thou must answer unto Him To whom all souls belong. Bend to the dust that “head unbowed, ” Small part of life’s great whole, And see in Him and Him alone, The captain of thy soul.

157 135 Reply
Colin Beard 17 October 2013

To put to rest all of the religious/ anti-religious debate over the poem, can I just ask one question? Does it really matter? I consider myself a religious person, but even I recognize this as one of the most powerful and influential poems ever written. However, if we were to truly understand the meaning of this poem, we must take into consideration what Henley meant by the word, soul. If you look over his biography, you learn that he suffered many hardships in his life including the death of his six year old daughter as well as an amputation. Yet despite the many trials of life, he was able to prevail. I think he meant by soul that we, as humans, have the unique ability to overcome any obstacle, despite the fell clutch of circumstance, whether this ability was given to us from God or not. And that we, being the captain of our fate have complete control over the choices that we make, which will inevitably control the course of our destiny. So really, i don't believe that this poem is religious or anti-religious, but rather it is neutral. But what do I know? I'm just a high-school teenager.

272 18 Reply
Sedric Ramey 21 April 2013

It's a great poem for someone who doesn't believe in God because the Bible clearly says we don't own, ourselves.(Psalm 24) . My fellow Christians and I are bought with a price by God and we ought to want Him to be the captain of our souls, just read 1 Corinthians 15-20.

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Frank Avon 16 September 2014

I was forced to memorize this poem in ninth grade. Like other poems we were assigned, this one turned me against poetry for years. Until I discovered Kahlil Gibran and then John Keats. Still, sixty years later, this poem represents to me what poetry should NOT be: a high-flown, abstract message spoken in bouncy rhythms and rhymes. No one, in the end, is the master of his fate or the captain of his soul: and no matter how strong and courageous, no one is always unbowed; no one can honestly always say, I have not winced or cried aloud. Give me Langston Hughes' Mother to Son for its honesty, simplicity, and linguistic authenticity: Life for me ain't been no crystal stair....

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Brent Cohick 02 August 2014

Ok, I find it very disheartening, the absolute darkness of this piece. To look into the beauty of creation and not be able to see a creator, one must simply be blind. it's like gazing at a Rembrandt and saying that's a blank canvas with some chicken scratch on it. To believe that all of this is formed at chance? I am proud to say I'm not stubborn enough to have never bowed my head to God. I am humbled by what my Master did for me. His name is Jesus.

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Rose Marie Juan-austin 06 September 2021

A timeless and wonderful poem powerfully expressed.

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Chinedu Dike 06 September 2021

Mandela's favourite poem, a beautiful work of art....

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Rose Marie Juan-austin 26 December 2020

A powerful and very inspiring poem. So beautifully written and and well crafted

3 0 Reply
Jan Framewell 09 December 2020

This is me overcoming everything.

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L Milton Hankins 22 September 2020

If one only quotes the last two lines of the poem, he/she misses the broad scope of life Henley lays out in rhyme. I remember studying this poem in high school, but never appreciated it as I should have until I read it in adulthood. Worth memorizing!

2 1 Reply
William Ernest Henley

William Ernest Henley

Gloucester / England
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