Inspired by "Invictus"

“Invictus” is a short Victorian poem by William Ernest Henley. Title of the poem means "Unconquered" in Latin. 
Background of the poem:
At the age of 12, Henley contracted tuberculosis of the bone. A few years later, the disease progressed to his foot, and physicians announced that the only way to save his life was to amputate directly below the knee. It was amputated when he was 17. Stoicism inspired him to write this poem. Despite his disability, he survived with one foot intact and led an active life until his death at the age of 53.
The poem had no title at first, then, “Invictus” was added by Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch.
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.

The Meaning:
1st stanza-
Clearly, the speaker believes that he is always in control. Even when hard times and disasters strike his life, he claims that he is in charge. The opening lines show that he is the victim in a dark world; yet, he is indebted to gods giving him his unconquerable soul. He is ready to face and defeat whatever enemy he encounters. Thus, the title “Invictus” means that he is unbeaten.
2nd stanza-
We see the speaker takes a beating from life’s circumstances. His reaction is that he is suffering in silence. He continues to hold his head up, but he does not tell us how he is fighting back or even trying to gain control of the situation at hand. He is simply stating that he is taking his punishment like a man. Is this not the Stoical mindset to suffer in silence? Is there not a vast difference between Stoicism and Christianity?
3rd stanza-
He indicates that there is something beyond the life in this place of wrath and tears. And he indicates that he doesn’t find much to look forward to since he refers to that destination of looming “Horror of the shade.” Once again, he does not tell us how he is resisting, or, if indeed, he is resisting. He simply says that he will continue to be fearless in the “Horror” beyond this place of wrath and tears.
4th stanza-
We see Biblical references to the strait gate. There are various interpretations, and many reasons are given why Henley used this allusion to Matthew 7. But it appears that the speaker (the poet was an atheist) was taking a defiant shot at the Christian belief with Jesus saying in Matthew 7 “strait is the way and narrow the gate.” The second line indicates that the speaker doesn’t really care how sinful his life might have been as some unseen hand records all of his misdeeds.
But in the end, he continues to tell us that he is the master of his fate and the captain of his soul. Yet, nowhere in the poem does he appear optimistic about his future. Nowhere does he exhibit any control of his destiny. Yet if he were truly the master of his fate and captain of his soul, would he not choose a life of peace and prosperity rather than a life of constant strife.

Apparently, William Ernest Hanley was impressed by “stoicism” when he writes this poem. Poem is also known for its last two lines.
"I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul."

Especially these two lines affected people too much. They applied these words to themselves as a tattoo. “Invictus” is identified with Nelson Mandela. Many books are published in the same name. There are many works of art, which are called "Invictus" or "Unconquered." In the recent past, Invictus (the movie) was released in 2009. Movie's director was Clint Eastwood and it starred important actors, like Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.
It is known that this poem inspired Nelson Mandela when he was in prison. Ye Ran High School, a school in Korea, uses the last two lines of poem as an official motto. Timothy Mcveigh, who took part in Oklohama bombing events, read this poem just before his execution. This poem is also associated with one of Rudyard Kipling's poems, "If."

There is a statue called "Unconquered" in the Florida State University. That statue symbolizes pride, joy, happiness, being unconquered, rebel, fighter, and education. The statue's history depends on Seminole tribe in Florida.

“Invictus” is known as one of the most inspirational poems in the world. Actually, it deserves its fame!


Polat Üründül – ELIT II