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.

William Henley (1849-1903)


Sung by Susan Diamond

Click here for sheet music

Commentary: Written in 1875 by the Victorian poet William Henley, “Invictus” has remained a classic evocation of the defiant power of the human spirit in the face of adversity. It was inspired by Henley’s own life. When sixteen, he lost a leg because of complications from tuberculosis. In his twenties, with the loss of the other seemingly inevitable, he made the courageous decision to receive treatment in Edinburgh from the pioneering surgeon Joseph Lister, who was able to save it after multiple surgical interventions. It was while recovering from this that Henley wrote “Invictus.” Dr. Diamond’s setting captures the the defiant mood of Henley’s poem perfectly.