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Analysis "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley

What-up poetry people this is The Poetry Podcast with your host Ethan, today we will be discussing the details of the poem Invictus’ by William Ernest Henley , he’s a very famous poet who wrote this back in 1875 It was written when Henley was in the hospital being treated for tuberculosis of the bone, also known as Pott’s disease. The poem is about showing his undivided courage in the face of death and keeping the dignity against all the hardships in life.

Some people believe that it’s his best work though let’s see about that. I believe that this poem is well made so I wonder if you will think so as well.

Thesis: I believe that in his poem Invictus’ Henley has successfully conveyed his theme that he will survive against all odds. So in this first paragraph we’ll be looking to find the theme of the poem. Based on my understanding the theme is that Henley will survive against all difficulties.

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This can be seen in multiple versus for example ‘For my unconquerable soul’ also ‘And yet the menace of the years finds and shall find me unafraid’. These verses and a couple more show that Henley is saying that no matter what hardship befalls him he will never cower away to safety.

Next, I’ll be analysing the poetic devices in the poem. Firstly, there is much imagery in the poem for example the lines ‘Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole’ this means dark covers everything in black the night then becomes a symbol of hopelessness, a depressive medium in which the soul is lost.

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There are also multiple metaphors that further convey the theme to the reader for example ‘Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed’ in which Henley compare his life’s mishaps to a heavy beating. And secondly the structure of the poem is four lines a stanza with four stanzas and a rhyming pattern of abab.

Finally, I will discuss the word choice in the poem. First off Henley uses multiple ways to say one thing for example ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul’ both meaning that he is a free man that no one controls or rules over him. He also uses many different ways to portray the theme to the reader, some of this being the lines ‘Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed’ also ‘And yet the menace of the years Finds and shall find me unafraid’ both conveying that he will not give up in the face of adversity.

The line ‘It matters not how strait the gate’ this is an allusion to the Christian bible, in the book of Matthew Jesus says Strait is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few be that find it’ Jesus is saying that this gate leads people to a life in heaven. Conversely, the second line How charged with punishments the scroll’ is meant to show hell and the punishment is meant to be the sins one commits in their lifetime. The speaker is affirming that, whether a person believes in heaven and hell, any other deity or none, the plain fact is that the individual oversees what happens to them, that they are in control of their own fate. This could also be him showing the audience that even the power of the church could not control him like it did with essentially everyone else.

Re-stated Thesis: Given the above analysis I believe that Henley has successfully conveyed his theme that he is never going to give up. Reviewed Evidence: When I analysed the poem, I found the theme in the first paragraph, in the second I analysed poetic devices in the poem to understand there meaning and in the third paragraph I analysed Henley’s word choice. Arafat, S. F. (2019). Reflection of William Ernest Henley’s Own Life through the Poem Invictus. International Journal of English Literature and Social Sciences (IJELS), 4(5). Retrieved from agrees that this was his greatest work It tells about the hardships and struggles of the poet he faced in his own life and at the same time shows the indomitable spirit the poet used to have to fight life and emerge as victorious.

Closing Comment: So, my poetry people this is the end of the episode in which we analysed the poem Invictus’ by William Ernest Henley. In the next episode we will be analysing the poem Death, be not proud’ by John Donne. This has been the poetry podcast remember to subscribe and like the podcast and possibly sign-up to our site so you can get notified whenever we upload a new episode, this has been your host Ethan till next time signing off.

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Analysis "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley. (2020, May 04). Retrieved from

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