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Two Lyrical Poems by William Ernest Henley (a lifelong friend of Robert Louis Stevenson) [1849-1903]


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.

(Note: Henley suffered from tuberculosis of the bone when he was 12. His diseased foot had to be amputated. Worse still his physicians announced that his other foot also had to be amputated in order to save his life. Henley fought this with all his spirit. He was discharged from hospital with his foot and his life and was able to lead an active life for nearly 30 years despite his handicap. His disease killed him at 54. This poem [Invictus] was written from a hospital bed.)

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