The Meaning of Invictus – A Poem written by William Ernest Henley

The The Meaning of Invictus is provided below by first giving a brief description on the background followed by the poem structure and its meaning.

The Background
Invictus” is a very short Victorian poem written by William Ernest Henley. He was an English poet who lived within 1849 – 1903. He wrote the poem on a hospital bed while suffering from tuberculosis of the bone. He had the disease at a very young age. His foot was amputated as a result of the illness. Mr. Henley wrote the poem to encourage himself in the face of the deadly illness which tried to steal his life. He later survived the illness with one foot and also remained very active till he gave up the ghost in 1903.

The Structure
“Invictus” was first published in 1875 in a book captioned “Book of Verses”. It was the number 4 poem in the book. The poem was written in 4 stanzas with each of them having 4 lines. The language of them poem is very clear and simple. There’s a perfect rhyme in all the stanzas. The first line rhymes with the third while the second line rhymes with the fourth. The rhythm continues that way all through the 4 stanzas. The tone of the poem depicts courage and perseverance in the midst of difficult life situations.

The Meaning
The title “Invictus” is a Latin word which means “undefeated” or “unconquerable”. This is clearly seen in the tone of the poem. The poet, Henley was faced with an ugly situation. He suffered from tuberculosis of the bone right from his early years in life. While he went for treatment, the surgeon stated that the only way he could survive was through the amputation of one of his legs. The poor man faced death at the hospital. He had to write the poem to encourage himself. Hence, the poem portrays how one can be very courageous in the face of death or unfavorable conditions. One can still hold on to his or her dignity despite the ugly condition on ground.

Indeed, “Invictus” has continued to remain very relevant in every age. It’s really a short poem that is loaded with words of encouragement. One can use it to withstand the vicissitudes and challenges of life.

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A. Garg

I am a software engineer by profession and poetry is my hobby. I like literary works and visiting ancient works. Some of my works are available with this website...

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