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 gait,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
In Latin Invictus, meaning “unconquerable” or “undefeated” is a poem by William Ernest Henley. (Henley was a lifelong atheist, and, with his missing leg and braggadocio, he was also the inspiration for the character of Long John Silver in Robert Louis Stephenson’s Treasure Island.
This poem is about courage in the face of death, and holding on to one’s own dignity despite the indignities life places before us.
The poet William Ernest Henley would likely have been familiar with one or both of these sources. He bows to no authority. He is his own god, guide and judge. He is the Captain.