This study guide will help you analyze the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. You can also find a summary of the poem, as well as ideas for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

Presentation of the poem

Title: “Invictus” (1888) 
Author: William Ernest Henley 
Genre: Poem

William Ernest Henley (1849-1903) was an English poet and editor. Since his childhood, Henley suffered from tuberculosis of the bones, which led to his left leg being amputated. His ill health influenced his works. He wrote several collections of poetry, such as In Hospital (written between 1873-1875) and A Book of Verses (1891). “Invictus” is considered Henley’s most famous poem and was written in 1875 while Henley was facing the possibility of having his right leg amputated as well, due to complications caused by his disease. The poem was published in 1888 in A Book of Verses, and, at the time, it had no title. It was reprinted in the coming years in several newspapers and given various titles. In 1900, the poem was published in Oxford Book of English Verse and given the now established title “Invictus”.


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The message of the poem is that, while people might not be able to control everything that happens in their lives and negative events are inevitable, they can control their attitude towards these events. The poem highlights the importance of resilience in the face of adversity by presenting the obstacles and suffering the speaker faces and his determination not to give in to them.

Overall, the message of the poem could ...

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