British Culture & Expressions

“Invictus” by William Ernest Henley

W.E Henley wrote this poem in 1875 while having treatment for tuberculosis in the hospital. The poem focuses on the overcome of adversity during hard times. The bravery of those that fight instead of giving up.


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.

Key Words

  • Pit ‘ a large hole in the ground’.
  • Fell clutch basically means cruel and tightly held or trap within the circumstances.
  • Winced ‘gesture of pain’
  • Bludgeon ‘beat (someone) repeatedly with a bludgeon or other heavy object’
  • Unbowed ‘Head is not inclined. He is resisting. He has the intention of surviving’
  • Wrath ‘fury, rage’
  • Looms ‘the speaker looks into the future’
  • Menace ‘threat’
  • Strait the gate ‘Narrow is the gate. This is the gate that leads to the heavenly life’
  • Scroll ‘the document where the sins are written down during a lifetime.’


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