William Ernest Henley

cantfindit

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. His father was a struggling bookseller who died when Henley was a teenager. 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,” which concludes with the oft-referenced lines “I am the master of my fate; / I am the captain of my soul.” Henley’s poems often engage themes of inner strength and perseverance. His numerous collections of poetry include A Book of Verses (1888), London Voluntaries (1893), and Hawthorn and Lavender (1899). Henley edited the Scots Observer (which later became the National Observer), through which he befriended writer Rudyard Kipling, and the Magazine of Art, in which he lauded the work of emerging artists James McNeill Whistler and Auguste Rodin. Henley was a close friend of Robert Louis Stevenson, who reportedly based his Long John Silver character in Treasure Island in part on Henley. Source

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 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.

Published:

1888

Length:

Shorty

Literary Movements:

Impressionism

Anthology Years:

2022

Themes:

Identity

Strength & Resilience

Literary Devices:

End Rhyme

when a poem has lines ending with words that sound the same

Metaphor

a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic

Quatrain

A stanza made of four lines.