This week I wanted to share one of my favorite poems of all time, “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. I first encountered this poem in high school and it instantly became one of my favorite things to read during the tough times of life.
Henley wrote this poem not long after having his left leg amputated due to tuberculosis of the bone. He had made the decision that he would not let this devastating trial control his life. He became involved with other writers and poets in England and was so well respected that Robert Louis Stevenson based the one-legged pirate Long John Silver in Treasure Island off of him. In the book, Long John Silver has one leg yet is the commander of his ship and the oceans where he sails. Later, J.M. Barrie based Wendy from Peter Pan on Henley’s 5 year old daughter.
Like Henley, we will face devastating trials in our life. It is not a matter of if, but when. It is not a matter of how bad it is or how long it will last, it is a matter of how strong our resolve will be to get back up after being knocked down. I hope this poem helps you to feel strength when you otherwise would feel weak.
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.
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.