Invictus (4)

INVICTUS: Not able to defeat



This adaptation of William E. Henley’s poem,“Invictus” is for the purpose of making its meaning understandable  to English Language Learners. The original is given below, along with a brief history of how the poem came to be. 


INVICTUS   [Adapted for English Language Learners]

Out of the night that covers me—
In this world that is dark and cold,
I thank whatever gods may be,
For my unconquerable
* soul.

Held in the grip of men’s proud ways,
I’ve not feared pain—or cried aloud.
Under the cruelty that fills my days
My head is bloody, but not bent down.

Beyond this place of sorrow and tears.
Is only a moment men call death,
And yet this moment that all men fear
Finds and will find me unafraid.

However long my escape from hate,
However strong the power men hold,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

*unconquerable: something that cannot be defeated or killed.


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 hatred 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 Ernest Henley




The man who wrote “Invictus” [not defeated] was very ill all his life. He lived in the “prison” of a body he was told was beyond help. He could rarely [not often] go to school as a boy.  As an adult, he spent many years in the hospital where he began to write poetry.  He never became famous as a poet and felt himself a failure.  But almost 100 years after he wrote “Invictus,” another imprisoned man, Nelson Mandela, would turn to this poem daily for support during his 27 long years imprisoned on Robbin Island. Nelson Mandela proved the words of the poem.  He was finally freed from prison, became president of South Africa and ended the cruel system called apartheid [the separation and unfair treatment of people of color in South Africa].  

 ©InterestEng. July 2013 - July 2021 §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff photos or used with permission.  §  To contact us: