by William Ernest Henley
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.
Summary of Invictus
- Popularity: Written by William Ernest Henley, a great poet, and critic, “Invictus” is a masterpiece of stoic poetry. It was written in 1888 in his first volume of poems, Book of Verses. The poet shows the strength and endurance of a person who becomes a victim of unfortunate circumstances. Despite the conditions, the victim holds his head high and doesn’t break down. Since its publication, it has become a very popular poem on account of its outstanding description the speaker’s positive attitude and resilient nature.
- “Invictus” as a representative of Adversity: This poem is about the positive attitude and survival of a person who remains tenacious and undefeated no matter how unfavorable the situation is. It also encourages the readers to be dignified and determined. The expressions of pride, positivity, and satisfaction continue in every second half of the stanzas. However, what enthralls the readers is the undaunted courage and endurance of the speaker during his sufferings.
- Major Themes of the Poem: The poem comprises thoughts of an adult whose life is overwhelmed by misery and pain. However, he knows that the best means of combating these situations is strong will. He further says that his miserable life cannot conquer his soul, as he is not afraid of the challenges and sufferings. He remains positive, composed, unbowed and unafraid in every difficult situation. His optimism makes him the master of his fate and “the captain of his soul”.
Analysis of the Literary Devices in “Invictus”
Literary devices refer to specific literary techniques poets and writers use to convey their messages. Ernest has also used a few literary devices to make this poem effective while sharing a prominent message. The analysis of some literary devices used in this poem is given below.
- Metaphor: Henley has used three metaphors in the poem. First, the title of the poem “Invictus” represents pain. The second metaphor is used in the first line as “out of the night that covers me.” Here night represents dark times and hardships of the poet. The third metaphor is in the third stanza “looms but the horror of the shade.” Here shade refers to unseen future or upcoming challenges.
- Personification: Personification is used to attribute human characteristics to an inanimate object. The poet has personified “night” in the first line of the poem such as “out of the night that covers me.” Nightstands for the suffering that troubles him. The second example of personification is used in the second stanza “under the bludgeoning’s of chance” as if the chance is human who can be hit by someone.
- Imagery: The use of strong imagery in the poem enables the reader to feel the writer’s Henley has used images appealing to the sense of sight such as, “black is the pit”; “my head is bloody” and “beyond the place of wrath and tears.” These images help the readers to feel the pain and courage that have helped the speaker to overcome his misery.
- Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of the vowel sounds in the same line such as the sounds of /a/ and /u/ come in quick succession in “black as”; “under the bludgeoning” and “am, master, am captain.”
- Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds such as the sound of /p/ in “pit from pole to pole”; /f/ sound in “finds and shall find me unafraid” and /b/ sound in “bloody but unbowed.”
- Simile: A simile is a device used to compare two different objects to understand meanings by comparing these object’s qualities. There is one simile used in the second line of the poem where it is stated that “Black as the pit from pole to pole.” He compares the darkness of night with his dark and woeful life.
- Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of the same consonant sounds in the same lines of the poetry such as the use of /p/ sound in “pit from pole to pole” and /f/ in “finds and shall find me unafraid.” This use of alliteration here has brought musicality in the poem.
This short analysis shows that Henley has beautifully used literary devices to make his poem impressive. The use of these literary devices has not only made this text appealing but also opens up new dimensions for further interpretations.
Analysis of Poetic Devices in “Invictus”
Although poetic devices are included in the literary devices, they are exclusively used in poetry and not in prose. Some of the poetic devices used in this poem are analyzed below.
- Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. In this poem, there are four stanzas and each stanza has four lines/verses.
- Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Here, each stanza is a quatrain because it is structured in four lines.
- Rhyme scheme: The poem follows the ABAB rhyme scheme, where the first line rhyme with the third and the second line rhymes with the fourth line.
- Enjambment: It gives flow and continuity to the poem where the same idea runs without any punctuation marks. Similarly, in this poem, the third line of each stanza runs into the fourth without any appropriate punctuation.
“And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.”
- Iambic Tetrameter: It means four iambic feet or four feet line that is having “dee-dah” sound four times or each one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable as in the first line of this poem “Out of the night that covers me.”
In conclusion, it can be stated that the poet has painted a very optimistic picture of a man who has suffered but kept his head high. This optimism shines when he says that he is thankful and his head is unbowed even though it bleeds. The use of these structural devices has kept the meanings clear and effective.
Quotations for Usage from “Invictus”
The following stanza can be used to describe the heroic action of a warrior who remains persistent even after an injury and continues to show his courage. These lines can also be used in speeches and lectures when sharing a traumatized past and the stories of overcoming them.
“In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning’s of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.”