Literary Birthday – 23 August – William Ernest Henley


William Ernest Henley was born 23 August 1849 and died 11 July 1903

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black is 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.

Six Quotes

  1. Men there have been who have done the essayist’s part so well as to have earned an immortality in the doing; but we have had not many of them, and they make but a poor figure on our shelves. It is a pity that things should be thus with us, for a good essayist is the pleasantest companion imaginable.
  2. This is the merit and distinction of art: to be more real than reality, to be not nature but nature’s essence.
  3. There are two men in Tolstoy. He is a mystic and he is also a realist. He is addicted to the practice of a pietism that for all its sincerity is nothing if not vague and sentimental; and he is the most acute and dispassionate of observers, the most profound and earnest student of character and emotion.
  4. Pointed criticism, if accurate, often gives the artist an inner sense of relief. The criticism that damages is that which disparages, dismisses, ridicules, or condemns.
  5. It is the artist’s function not to copy but to synthesise: to eliminate from that gross confusion of actuality which is his raw material whatever is accidental, idle, irrelevant, and select for perpetuation that only which is appropriate and immortal.
  6. Essayists, like poets, are born and not made, and for one worth remembering, the world is confronted with a hundred not worth reading. Your true essayist is, in a literary sense, the friend of everybody.

William Ernest Henley was an English poet, critic, and editor of the late-Victorian era. He is remembered most often for his 1875 poem Invictus.

Source for image

by Amanda Patterson