“Invictus” Poem by William Ernest Henley

Phil’s note: This is one of my favorite poems of all time. Incredibly powerful. It’s said that Nelson Mandela used to recite it to other prisoners when he was incarcerated at Robben Island to give them strength…

William Ernext Henley (1849-1903)
William Ernext Henley (1849-1903)
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.

Phil’s note: This is one of my favorite poems of all time. Incredibly powerful. It’s said that Nelson Mandela used to recite it to other prisoners when he was incarcerated at Robben Island to give them strength.


William Ernest Henley (23 August 1849 – 11 July 1903) was an English poet, writer, critic and editor. Though he wrote several books of poetry, Henley is remembered most often for his 1875 poem “Invictus“. A fixture in London literary circles, the one-legged Henley might have been the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson‘s character Long John Silver (Treasure Island, 1883), while his young daughter Margaret Henley inspired J. M. Barrie‘s choice of the name Wendy for the heroine of his play Peter Pan (1904).[1][2] [from Wikipedia]

Here is a particularly interesting snippet from the Wikipedia article: “From the age of 12, Henley had tuberculosis of the bone that resulted in the amputation of his left leg below the knee in 1868–69.[4]: 35 [1][7] The early years of Henley’s life were punctuated by periods of extreme pain due to the draining of his tuberculosis abscesses. However, Henley’s younger brother Joseph recalled how after draining his joints the young Henley would “Hop about the room, laughing loudly and playing with zest to pretend he was beyond the reach of pain”.[8] According to Robert Louis Stevenson‘s letters, the idea for the character of Long John Silver was inspired by Stevenson’s real-life friend Henley.[3] In a letter to Henley after the publication of Treasure Island (1883), Stevenson wrote, “I will now make a confession: It was the sight of your maimed strength and masterfulness that begot Long John Silver … the idea of the maimed man, ruling and dreaded by the sound, was entirely taken from you.”[9] Stevenson’s stepson, Lloyd Osbourne, described Henley as “… a great, glowing, massive-shouldered fellow with a big red beard and a crutch; jovial, astoundingly clever, and with a laugh that rolled like music; he had an unimaginable fire and vitality; he swept one off one’s feet.”[10]:


Author: S.P. Staff

Slattery Publishing Staff.

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