Last modified on 1 September 2014, at 01:57

William Ernest Henley

I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley (23 August 184911 July 1903) was an English poet, critic and editor.

QuotesEdit

Invictus (1875)Edit

I thank whatever gods may be
for my unconquerable soul.
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.
  • 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.
Arise, O Soul, and gird thee up anew,
Though the black camel Death kneel at thy gate;
No beggar thou that thou for alms shouldst sue:
Be the proud captain still of thine own fate.

Views and Reviews (1889)Edit

  • Plainly Hugo was the greatest man of letters of his day. It has been given to few or none to live a life so full of effort and achievement, so rich in honour and success and fame. Born almost with the century, he was a writer at fifteen, and at his death he was writing still; so that the record of his career embraces a period of more than sixty years. There is hardly a department of art to a foremost place in which he did not prove his right. From first to last; from the time of Chateaubriand to the time of Zola, he was a leader of men; and with his departure from the scene the undivided sovereignty of literature became a thing of the past like Alexander's empire.
    • "Hugo".

Poems (1898)Edit

My songs are now of the sunset:
Their brows are touched with light,
But their feet are lost in the shadows
And wet with the dews of night.
Poems, 19th edition (1919) online
  • My songs were once of the sunrise:
    They shouted it over the bar;
    First-footing the dawns, they flourished,
    And flamed with the morning star.

    My songs are now of the sunset:
    Their brows are touched with light,
    But their feet are lost in the shadows
    And wet with the dews of night.

    • "Envoy".

Rhymes And RhythmsEdit

Marching, building, sailing, pillar of cloud or fire,
Sons of the Will, we fought the fight of the Will, our sire.
Later published in Rhymes and Rhythms and Arabian Nights' Entertainments (1909)
  • Those incantations of the Spring
    That made the heart a centre of miracles
    Grow formal, and the wonder-working bours
    Arise no more — no more.

    Something is dead . . .
    'Tis time to creep in close about the fire
    And tell grey tales of what we were, and dream
    Old dreams and faded, and as we may rejoice
    In the young life that round us leaps and laughs,
    A fountain in the sunshine, in the pride
    Of God's best gift that to us twain returns,
    Dear Heart, no more — no more.

    • "Prologue".
  • We are the Choice of the Will: God, when He gave the word
    That called us into line, set in our hand a sword;

    Set us a sword to wield none else could lift and draw,
    And bade us forth to the sound of the trumpet of the Law.

    • II
Who says that we shall pass, or the fame of us fade and die,
While the living stars fulfil their round in the living sky?
  • East and west and north, wherever the battle grew,
    As men to a feast we fared, the work of the Will to do.

    Bent upon vast beginnings, bidding anarchy cease —
    (Had we hacked it to the Pit, we had left it a place of peace!) —

    Marching, building, sailing, pillar of cloud or fire,
    Sons of the Will, we fought the fight of the Will, our sire.

    • II
  • Who says that we shall pass, or the fame of us fade and die,
    While the living stars fulfil their round in the living sky?
    • II
Arise! no more a living lie,
And with me quicken and control
Some memory that shall magnify
The universal Soul.
  • Some starlit garden grey with dew,
    Some chamber flushed with wine and fire,
    What matters where, so I and you
    Are worthy our desire?
    • XII
Life is worth Living
Through every grain of it,
From the foundations
To the last edge
Of the cornerstone, death.
  • Think on the shame of dreams for deeds,
    The scandal of unnatural strife,
    The slur upon immortal needs,
    The treason done to life:

    Arise! no more a living lie,
    And with me quicken and control
    Some memory that shall magnify
    The universal Soul.

    • XII
Dear, was it really you and I?
In truth the riddle's ill to read,
So many are the deaths we die
Before we can be dead indeed.
  • Time's right-hand man, the sea
    Laughs as in joy
    From his millions of wrinkles:
    Laughs that his destiny,
    Great with the greatness
    Of triumphing order,
    Shows as a dwarf
    By the strength of his heart
    And the might of his hands.

    Master of masters,
    O maker of heroes,
    Thunder the brave,
    Irresistible message: —
    'Life is worth Living
    Through every grain of it,
    From the foundations
    To the last edge
    Of the cornerstone, death.'

    • XIV
  • You played and sang a snatch of song,
    A song that all-too well we knew;
    But whither had flown the ancient wrong;
    And was it really I and you?
    O, since the end of life's to live
    And pay in pence the common debt,
    What should it cost us to forgive
    Whose daily task is to forget?
    • XV
Life — life — let there be life!
  • Dear, was it really you and I?
    In truth the riddle's ill to read,
    So many are the deaths we die
    Before we can be dead indeed.
    • XV
  • Life — life — let there be life!
    Better a thousand times the roaring hours
    When wave and wind,
    Like the Arch-Murderer in flight
    From the Avenger at his heel,
    Storm through the desolate fastnesses
    And wild waste places of the world!
    • XVI
  • Life — give me life until the end,
    That at the very top of being,
    The battle-spirit shouting in my blood,
    Out of the reddest hell of the fight
    I may be snatched and flung
    Into the everlasting lull,
    The immortal, incommunicable dream.
    • XVI
  • What have I done for you,
    England, my England?
    What is there I would not do,
    England, my own?
    • XXV

Hawthorn and Lavender (1901)Edit

1910 edition online
  • Life — life — life! 'Tis the sole great thing
    This side of death,
    Heart on heart in the wonder of Spring!
    • XI
  • Love, which is lust, is the Lamp in the Tomb.
    Love, which is lust, is the Call from the Gloom.
    Love, which is lust, is the Main of Desire.
    Love, which is lust, is the Centric Fire.

    So man and woman will keep their trust,
    Till the very Springs of the Sea run dust.
    Yea, each with the other will lose and win,
    Till the very Sides of the Grave fall in.
    For the strife of Love's the abysmal strife,
    And the word of Love is the Word of Life.
    And they that go with the Word unsaid,
    Though they seem of the living, are damned and dead.
    • XXI
A people, roaring ripe
With victory, rises, menaces, stands renewed,
Sheds its old piddling aims,
Approves its virtue, puts behind itself
The comfortable dream, and goes,
Armoured and militant,
New-pithed, new-souled, new-visioned, up the steeps
To those great altitudes, whereat the weak
Live not. But only the strong
Have leave to strive, and suffer, and achieve.
  • Into a land
    Storm-wrought, a place of quakes, all thunder-scarred,
    Helpless, degraded, desolate,
    Peace, the White Angel, comes.
    Her eyes are as a mother's. Her good hands
    Are comforting, and helping; and her voice
    Falls on the heart, as, after Winter, Spring
    Falls on the World, and there is no more pain.
    • Epilogue
  • All over the world, the nation, in a dream
    Of money and love and sport, hangs at the paps
    Of well-being, and so
    Goes fattening, mellowing, dozing, rotting down
    Into a rich deliquium of decay.
    • Epilogue
  • A people, haggard with defeat,
    Asks if there be a God; yet sets its teeth,
    Faces calamity, and goes into the fire
    Another than it was. And in wild hours
    A people, roaring ripe
    With victory, rises, menaces, stands renewed,
    Sheds its old piddling aims,
    Approves its virtue, puts behind itself
    The comfortable dream, and goes,
    Armoured and militant,
    New-pithed, new-souled, new-visioned, up the steeps
    To those great altitudes, whereat the weak
    Live not. But only the strong
    Have leave to strive, and suffer, and achieve.
    • Epilogue

In Hospital (1908)Edit

  • Life is (I think) a blunder and a shame.
    • p. 4.
  • Far in the stillness a cat
    Languishes loudly. A cinder
    Falls, and the shadows
    Lurch to the leap of the flame.
    • p. 11.
  • From the winter’s gray despair,
    From the summer’s golden languor,
    Death, the lover of Life,
    Frees us for ever.
    • p. 20.

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