I have decided to write my Rhetorical Analysis on the poem “Invictus”, written by
William Ernest Henley, published 1892.
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.
The first two lines “out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole” he
is talking about some sort of personal trial, or maybe a difficult situation that makes him feel as
if he is surrounded by feelings of despair. In the next 2 lines he mentions giving thanks for his
unconquerable soul. To have an unconquerable soul means that you refuse to let anything wear
you down and you will continue to fight through the difficulties that bring darkness into your’
Through the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
When he writes the “fell clutch of circumstance”, he is referring to the uncertainty of fate.
Many people think that good luck and bad luck are directly results of fate, and it is not something
that you can control, so you would be in the clutch of its hands. That first line can segue into the
third line when he writes “bludgeonings of chance”. Chance can sometimes deliver a hit to you
emotionally or physically that is unexpected. Between those two lines is the words, “ I have not
winced nor cried aloud”, which says that he has not complained or grown weak because of the
blows he has been delivered, he has managed to hang on to his pride within himself regardless
of what has happened. It represents a strong individual that refuses to give up on life and himself,
someone who pushes through everything because he knows it will be better on the other side of
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.
This section of the poem talks about anger and fear, yet he makes the statement that he
shall be found unafraid. He uses the wrath to describe a place, could that be the earth he is on, or
would it be more of a mental place that can take over your way of seeing yourself or the world. It
goes on to talk about the “menace of the years”, is he talking about fear of the future and what is
has in store for him? I know that I am guilty of being afraid for the future sometimes, I worry
about so many things and it does cause some fear within me. His last line is a powerful line in
this poem, he is declaring his bravery to go on and move forward no matter the odds.
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 last verse is about taking hold of your life, no matter what your challenges are, the
fears you face, or maybe even the rejections you receive, it is up to you to make things happen
for yourself. In the third line he uses the word master, which commonly means someone in
charge or in control, so it seems he is deciding that only he is in control of his future. His last line
states “I am the captain of my soul”. This line sums up the whole message that I received from
the poem, when he talks about being found unafraid and his head being bloody but unbowed.
Bravery and pride are a part of what makes your soul it is a part of standing up for and believing
in yourself. We are the captains of ourselves, and only we can decide whether to sink or swim
when we face the challenges in life.