“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.”
This poem “Invictus”, written by William Ernest Henley presents the idea of the will to survive in the face of a severe test. Henley himself faced these tests which persuaded him to write the poem. The name of the poem itself says enough; “Invictus” latin for unconquerable, invincible, undefeated. “Out of the night that covers me,” When Henley talks about the night that covers him he is describing a darkness that covers him a gloom which engulfs his life. “Black as the pit from pole to pole” In this line he describes a dark pit, gloomy, dark, horrible place. When Henley talks about “from pole to pole” he’s talking about the North and South pole, meaning he is describing the whole world to be a gloomy dark pit of horror. “I thank whatever gods may be, For my unconquerable soul.” The first line is pretty self explanatory where he thanks the whatever gods there might be he thanks them for his unconquerable soul. To have an unconquerable soul is to be someone who cannot be defeated and not just physically but to the point whereby this person cannot be defeated in spirit. This relates back to the first few lines by how no matter how gloomy and horrible the world around might be he will still be unconquered by the darkness. Therefore it is clear to the reader that Henley is presenting the theme of survival in tough conditions through his poem.
This poem actually has really strong relations to the outside world and is a poem which everyone needs to be able to take into consideration and understand. It’s a very powerful, inspirational poem. It was the poem Nelson Mandala had with him in prison which persuaded him to fight through the darkness of his life, and he did. Nelson Mandala then soon after became South Africa’s first black president, leading the country to victory.