Never Ever Give Up: An Analysis of the Poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley

A Paper Submitted in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Subject Introduction to Literary Types

La Consolacion University Philippines April 2013

And its forms do not significantly affect subsequent developments in English literature. English.I. while Surrey (as he is known) develops unrhymed pentameters (or blank verse) thus inventing the verse form which will be of great use to contemporary dramatists. Christopher . The earliest known English poem is a hymn on the creation. English poets have written some of the most enduring poems in Western culture. Old English is effectively a foreign and dead language. Brythonic and Old Irish survives which may date as early as the 6th century. Old English literature is mostly chronicle and poetry lyric. The earliest surviving poetry was likely transmitted orally. as we know it. The earliest written works in Old English were probably composed orally at first. Edmund Spenser (1552-1599). They had no writing until they learned the Latin alphabet from Roman missionaries. Poetry written in Latin. who was. Modern lyric poetry in English begins in the early 16th century with the work of Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) and Henry Howard. dating the earliest poetry remains difficult. Earl of Surrey (1517-1547). By the time literacy becomes widespread. The earliest surviving poetry written in Anglo-Saxon may have been composed as early as the 7th century. thus. Development of Poetry The history of English poetry stretches from the middle of the 7th century to the present day. an illiterate herdsman who produced extemporaneous poetry at a monastery at Whitby. and the language and its poetry have spread around the globe.D. 658–680). This is generally taken as marking the beginning of Anglo-Saxon poetry. Ælfric and King Alfred) but most writing is anonymous. descends from the language spoken by the north Germanic tribes who settled in England from the 5th century A. We know the names of some of the later writers (Cædmon. descriptive but chiefly narrative or epic. Sir Walter Ralegh (1552-1618). Wyatt. onwards. and may have been passed on from speaker to speaker before being written. The earliest surviving manuscripts date from the 10th century. Bede attributes this to Cædmon (fl. A flowering of lyric poetry in the reign of Elizabeth comes with such writers as Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586). who is greatly influenced by the Italian. Over this period. Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch) introduces the sonnet and a range of short lyrics to English.

S. Eliot. The best known of the other metaphysicals are George Herbert (1593-1633). . (Thomas Stearns) Eliot (1888-1965). and wrote much fine devotional verse. The preoccupation with the big questions of love. Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) and Robert Browning (1812-1889). the other being T.B. was revived and popularized by T. in an essay of 1921. Yeats was Irish. The major poets of the Victorian era are Alfred. W. (This name. but explores the connection between modern themes and classical and romantic ideas.S. Sidney's Astrophil and Stella and Shakespeare's sonnets. Eliot was born in the USA but settled in England. Tennyson makes extensive use of classical myth and Arthurian legend. Andrea del Sarto) and representative types or caricatures (Mr. Both are prolific and varied. and has been praised for the beautiful and musical qualities of his writing. Sludge the Medium). and took UK citizenship in 1927. The major works of the time are Spenser's Faerie Queen. Eliot uses elements of conventional forms. Yeats uses conventional lyric forms. Browning's chief interest is in people. within an unconventionally structured whole in his greatest works. Donne underwent a serious religious conversion.which is not the case. Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) and Henry Vaughan (1621-1695).Marlowe (1564-1593) and William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Samuel Johnson in an essay of 1779. and their work defies easy classification. The greatest of Elizabethan lyric poets is John Donne (1572-1631). he uses blank verse in writing dramatic monologues in which the speaker achieves a kind of self-portraiture: his subjects are both historical individuals (Fra Lippo Lippi. coined by Dr. Eliot's reputation largely rests on two long and complex works: The Waste Land (1922) and Four Quartets (1943). (William Butler) Yeats (1865-1939) is one of two figures who dominate modern poetry. whose short love poems are characterized by wit and irony. and who are led to think that these poets belonged to some kind of school or group . as he seeks to wrest meaning from experience. Where Yeats is prolific as a poet.) After his wife's death. It can be unhelpful to modern students who are unfamiliar with this adjective. death and religious faith marks out Donne and his successors who are often called metaphysical poets.

Canadian and Indian poetry have emerged and developed. Housman (1859-1936). (Wystan Hugh) Auden (1907-73).S. R.E.H. New Zealand. Thomas (1913-2000).The work of these two has overshadowed the work of the best late Victorian. Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) and Christina Rossetti (1830-1894). Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936). Rupert Brooke (1887-1915). alternating from extreme simplicity to massive overstatement. the English language had been widely used outside England. but writers of note include the American Robert Lowell (1917-77). A. as in Old English verse syllables are not counted. With the growth of trade and the British Empire. Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) is notable for his use of what he calls "sprung rhythm". a revival of romanticism in poetry is associated with the work of W. Between the two wars. Edwardian and Georgian poets. Thom Gunn (1929-2004). only a small percentage of the world's native English speakers live in England. some of whom came to prominence during the First World War. A number of major national poetries. Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967). . evaluation is even more difficult. Ted Hughes (1930-1998) and the 1995 Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney (b. Of poets who have achieved celebrity in the second half of the century. including the American. Edward Thomas (1878-1917). is Robert Frost (1874-1963). but is almost too contemporary to see in perspective. The most celebrated modern American poet. The Welsh poet. Louis MacNeice (1907-63) and Cecil Day-Lewis (190472). and there is also a vast population of non-native speakers of English who are capable of writing poetry in the language. Dylan Thomas (1914-53) is notable for strange effects of language. who befriended Edward Thomas before the war of 1914-1918. Australian. only poets from Northern Ireland are now British. Among these are Thomas Hardy. In the 21st century. Since the establishment of the Irish Republic in 1922. Hopkins' work was not well-known until very long after his death. but there is a pattern of stresses. Other Victorian poets of note include Browning's wife. Auden seems to be a major figure on the poetic landscape. 1939). Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) and Isaac Rosenberg (1890-1918). Philip Larkin (1922-1985).

He saved the leg. his friend Robert Louis Stevenson based the character Long John Silver on Henley. Background of the Author William Ernest Henley (1849 . During Henley's twenty-month ordeal between 1873 and 1875 at the Royal Edinburgh Infirmary in Scotland. Mary Ann Mackie. M. After his recovery. Barrie in his children's classic. After its headquarters were transferred to London in 1891. he enlisted the services of Dr. Henley earned his living as a publisher. was descended from the poet and critic Joseph Wharton. Henley was born in Gloucester. After contracting tuberculosis of the bone in his youth. In 1889 he became editor of the Scots Observer. 1878. Joseph Lister (1827-1912). His mother. the developer of antiseptic medicine. Margaret Henley. best remembered for his 1875 poem "Invictus". he married Hannah Johnson Boyle (1855–1925). was immortalized by the author J. Unable to speak clearly. William. was a bookseller and stationer. Unfortunately. a mechanical engineer from Edinburgh. it became the National Observer and remained under Henley's editorship until 1893. Mary Morgan. the youngest daughter of Edward Boyle. she died on February 11. 1894 at the age of five.II. Peter Pan. he suffered a tubercular infection when he was in his early twenties that resulted in amputation of a leg below the knee. he wrote ―Invictus‖ and other poems. Margaret didn't survive long enough to read the book. His father.1903) was an English poet. When physicians informed him that he must undergo a similar operation on the other leg. resulting in the use of "Wendy" in the book. and his wife. Years later. Henley's sickly young daughter. critic and editor. England and was the eldest of a family of six children. an Edinburgh journal of the arts and current events and precursor of the National Observer (UK). On January 22. young Margaret had called her friend Barrie her "fwendy-wendy". .

Under the bludgeoning of chance My head is bloody. Its early printings contained only the dedication ‗To R. III. A. but unbowed. 1920). Beyond this place of wrath and tears . The poem was first published in 1875 in a book called Book of Verses. T. Analysis of the Poem "Invictus" is a short Victorian poem. Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela both recited from it to stir their listeners. Black as the pit from pole to pole. B. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. "Invictus" appears in prestigious anthologies. The poem was originally untitled. successful Scottish flour merchant. The title "Invictus" (Latin for "unconquered") was added by the editor Arthur QuillerCouch when the poem was included in The Oxford Book of English Verse. Harcourt. Paraphrase Out of the night that covers me. I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul. H. where it was number four in several poems called Life and Death (Echoes).Henley died of tuberculosis in 1903 at the age of 53 at his home in Woking.‘—a reference to Robert Thomas Hamilton Bruce (1846–1899). including Modern British Poetry (New York. baker and a literary patron.

and has feared of the death that may come from it. The speaker tried to not let the fear show on the outside. but not unbowed. and detailed poem. Under the bludgeonings of chance my head is bloody. is where he feels he will go. you could feel the speaker was talking about how tuberculosis has tried to kill him before. And yet the menace of the years Finds and shall find me unafraid. well written. I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul. even though it was bursting on the inside. Black as the Pit from pole to pole. You can really tell by the details Henley . ―Out of the night that covers me. The pain he was going through while writing this poem was tuberculosis. As the speaker stated. It matters not how strait the gate. it seems as if it is the thought of death since his youth.‖.‖. and it will keep trying. you can just imagine the fear he is having inside. you can tell the speaker is going through some sort of pain. Henley has had tuberculosis ever since he was young. is a very powerful. How charged with punishments the scroll. When the speaker talked about the night covering him. In the second stanza the speaker stated. ―In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. the speaker thanked gods for his unconquerable soul. With the fear of death still running through his head. because he felt they were the reason he was still surviving tuberculosis. and the black as the pit.Looms but the Horror of the shade. you just imagine the speaker thinking about death. by William Ernest Henley. When reading this poem Henley wrote in the hospital bed. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul. After reading this poem over and over again. ―Invictus‖. When he stated that.

me unafraid. meaning every other line rhymed. Images / Symbolism On the first stanza. In the fourth line. to show them he was unafraid In the last stanza it is written.gave. meaning that it didn‘t matter how rocky or troubled his past life was. bloody. ―It matters not how strait the gate. he would not let it ruin him completely. To make poem more visual. When writing the poem. B. and shall find. . the word night (‗Out of the night that covers me‘) is used a metaphor for suffering. Invictus. that the speaker was very tough. he knew he would die eventually. Alliteration occurs in the words clutch. he was talking about that even though it was taking over his life. the word unconquerable establishes the theme. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul. used the rhyme format ABAB. The theme of ―Invictus‖ would have to be survival after all the troubles he went through while having tuberculosis. comparing circumstance to a creature with a deadly grip (‗In the fell clutch of circumstance‘). The shade was the place he would go after he died. Henley added in some similes such as. he still hid his fear from everyone. but. It is also part of a simile and a hyperbole when the speaker compares the darkness of his suffering to the blackness of a hellish pit stretching from pole to pole (‗Black as the pit from pole to pole‘). and in bludgeonings. to the title. the will to survive in the face of a severe test. and the place he would no longer be able to see all the people there for him at the hospital. and unbowed. in not and nor.‖ In this stanza the speaker talked about the life he was living in. circumstance. so he was going to keep living his life the way he wanted to. and cried. ―Black as the Pit from pole to pole‖ William Ernest Henley did a great job of giving details and thoughts. Even though the speaker had this for so long. how charged with punishments the scroll. that was full of tears coming from people scared to lose him. Henley. so the reader could imagine what he was going through. ―Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the Horror of the shade. This stanza begins with another metaphor.‖ The speaker said this. When he talked about his head not being unbowed. and yet the menace of the years finds. The third stanza stated.

References      http://www.cummingsstudyguides.htm http://www. Menace of the years (‗And yet the menace of the years‘) is also a metaphor for growing older.com/english-language-history.org/wiki/Invictus http://en.html Reviewed by: Ruth Klaribelle C. Villaceran BSED 3 .English . The word strait (‗It matters not how strait the gate‘) is used in the thirteenth line of the poem.englishclub. the word shade (‗Looms but the Horror of the shade‘) is used as a metaphor for death.wikipedia.uk/lit/history.universalteacher. IV.org/wiki/William_Ernest_Henley http://www. This means narrow or restricted.org.net/Guides7/Invictus.wikipedia.htm http://en.In the tenth line.

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