Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Invictus is a short poem by the British poet William Ernest Henley, which is the source of a number of familiar clichés and quotations. The title is Latin for "unconquered." It was first published in 1875.
The poem goes:
- 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.
In this poem, Henley gave the world the familiar phrases "my head is bloody, but unbowed" and "I am the master of my fate". These lines have been quoted many times by people who may not realize their source. They seem a hyperbolic epitome of the "stiff upper lip" that popular culture has made a traditional British virtue, and a handy image of stoicism in the face of disaster.
It is also the name of an album by the Heavy Metal band Virgin Steele who use occasional lines of the poem as lyrics on the album.
The poem recently gained further notoriety by being quoted by the American terrorist Timothy McVeigh, who quoted it in a communiqué released shortly before his execution for murder committed in the Oklahoma City bombing.
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