William Ernest Henley, a poet and literary critic, is well known for his wordsmithing skills but best-remembered for his poem Invictus. Echoing throughout the halls of time, this poem has inspired many, including among the many Nelson Mandela who recited it to other prisoners while incarcerated on Robben Island prison.
Henley suffered of tuberculosis since an early age and as a demonstration of resilience and an iron will, wrote this poem following the amputation of his left foot. He had looked at misfortune squarely in the face and defied it, deciding to never let temporary defeat become permanent failure. Very inspiring indeed.
Robert Louis Stevenson, the well-known and acclaimed author, also a friend of Henley, took notice of this and acknowledged the idea for his character Long John Silver(for his book Treasure Island) was taken from Henley. Stevenson later wrote him the following, “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.“
Henley possessed a resilience that had to be reckoned with and this poem is a reflection of this. Will the same be said of us?
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.