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Analysis of Invictus by William Ernest Henley

Analysis of Invictus by William Ernest Henley
My bleeding head dashed at many unseen blockades yet I didn’t succumb nor...

About the Poem
Invictus by William Ernest Henley is a poem that anyone facing a hard challenge or embarking on a certain herculean task must keep at heart because it arouses the spirit of tenacity and endurance; knowing fully well that tough times don’t last but tough people do.

Poem Paraphrase
 I thank whatever God that privileged me to survive the thick darkness I trekked. My bleeding head dashed at many unseen blockades yet I didn’t succumb nor cried painfully aloud. Beyond these unhappy circumstances, I will continually remain brave for many years to come. Irrespective of the pleasure or suffering, I am responsible for my destiny and life on earth.


Poem Structure
In just four stanzas with equal number of lines per stanza, the poem speaker, via the first person singular point view, expressed his survival of a painful experience which taught him a true life lesson that a person’s fate is determined by none other than such person.

Poem Diction
Besides the title of the poem which is non-English, the language of the poem is simple and up-to-date except the use of “bludgeoning” and “unconquerable” which sounded as heavy as the duty they performed in the poem.

Poem Classification
The poem can be categorized under life and living. The poem titled “Relic” by Ted Hughes also fell into the same category.

Poem Setting
The direct setting is nighttime as described with lines such as “Out of the night that covers me/ Black as the pit from pole to pole”. The inner mind of the poet can also be considered a setting where promises of bravery emanated.

Poem Dominant Device
The poem is dominated with metaphors; comparing so many incomparable. “Fell clutch of circumstance”, “the bludgeoning of chance”, “this place of wrath and tears”, “the captain of my soul”, etc.

Poem Obvious Figurative
Other noted figures of speech are simile in line 2 “black as the Pit”, imagery in line 6 “not winced nor cried aloud” , allusion in line 13 “strait the gate” which alluded to the Bible, symbolism in line 2 “Pit” which symbolized Hell, run-on-line in line 9-10 “wrath and tears looms”, alliteration in line 2 “Pit from pole to pole”, repetition such as “find”, “I am the”, “pole”, “soul”, etc.

Poem Themes
The themes in the poem are of human fate and destiny, life’s unforeseen painful circumstances, perseverance as a vital tool for human survival, etc. For the voice in the poem to fulfill his or her destiny, he or she needed to weather all challenging situations with a tenacious spirit.

Poem Adaptation
There is also a movie titled “Invictus” which has some lines of the poem within its script. The 2009 movie is related to the South African Apartheid and the presidency of Nelson Mandel 

About the Poet 
William Ernest Henley (1849-1903) was a poet and editor born in Gloucester, England.  He edited for many magazines and journals during his working career. Few online biographies have also noted that Robert Louis Stevenson was one of William E. Henley’s friends. So who else has background records of the poet? Info from R. Hess at Poem of Quotes and Andrew Spacey at HubPages also seem interesting


Enunwa Chukwudinma S.
aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings flying)
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