Invictus Poetry Analysis and Reading



Written by William Ernest:

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.

Reading of the poem:

Poem Analysis:

Literal Meaning

A man is remaining courageous while facing death.


1 Image: “I am the captain of my soul” (Line 16).

Meaning: Ernest is using the word captain to demonstrate to the reader that he is in complete control of his soul, as captains of a ship have rule over all other individuals.


2. Image: “I have not winced nor cried aloud” (Line 6).

Meaning: The speaker is remaining quiet, and simply accepting the fact that death is upon him, as opposed to fighting it. He is aware that he cannot escape death, and therefore remains courageous and noble.


3. Image: “In the fell clutch of circumstance” (Line 5).

Meaning: Death is imminent for the speaker, and it is inescapable. This fills the reader with a sense of dread because they now know that his fate is sealed.

Lyric Qualities

1. Lyric Device: “It matters not how straight the gate” (Line 13). (Rhyme)

Meaning: As the speaker is dying, he is not concerned with what the afterlife has to offer him, good or bad, as he believes that he controls his own fate and destiny.

2. Lyric Device: “My head is bloody, but unbowed” (Line 8). Consonance using the letter B

Meaning: Despite the speaker’s physical struggles and pain, his spirit remains strong and he holds his head high.

Figurative Meaning

  1. Figurative Device: “Looms but the horror of the shade” (Line 10).

Meaning: The dark shade is a symbol for death, as shade is created when the sun goes down. The sun represents his life, and as it fizzles out, shade reigns over all.

2. Figurative Device: “Black as the pit from pole to pole” (Line 2). Simile

Meaning: The speaker’s world is fading away, leaving him in nothing but darkness as death seizes his spirit. He compares the world to the obscure darkness of a pit, that covers the earth from one end to the other.

  1. Figurative Device: “How charged with punishments the scroll” (Line 14). (Allusion)

Meaning: As he is dying, the speaker continues to allude to the afterlife, heaven and hell. He is not anxious about the direction of his soul’s fate, as he believes that whether he enters the gates of heaven, or is punished in hell, he will be able to persevere, in spite of the circumstances.


The themes of the poem are perseverance and courage. That no matter one’s situation, they are in control of their own fate.

Lit Circle Discussion #5

Group Members: Sean Hudson, Ryan Raposo, Jenna Woychyshyn, Edward Yang

Group Co-Leaders: Sean Hudson, Ryan Raposo


  1. What themes are evident throughout the novel?
  2. What lessons can we learn from the novel?
  3. What was enjoyable/not enjoyable about the novel?
  4. How can you apply the morals and lessons learned in the novel to every day life?
  5. How did the novel further develop your understanding of ww1/ww2?
  6. What does your novel say about humanity/the human condition?

Lit Circle Discussion #4

Group Discussion (Sean, Jenna, Edward)

Separate Discussion (Ryan)

Group Members: Sean Hudson, Jenna Woychyshyn, Edward Yang.


1. What archetype represents certain events in the novel? Why?

2. How has the protagonist’s archetype changed in your novel?

3. Are there any characters in your novel that have kept the same archetype throughout the novel?, if so then what is the archetype, and why do you think they haven’t changed?

4. Why do you think archetypes have such an important role in shaping one’s identity?

5. What is the most symbolic archetype throughout your novel and what does it represent?

6. How do you think the different setting archetypes have impacted or changed your story?

Lit Circle Discussion #3

Discussion Leader: Edward

Group Members: Sean Hudson, Ryan Raposo, Edward Yang, Jenna Woychyshyn


  1. What words or lines have hidden messages or meanings in the novel?
  2. What literary devices (irony) reveal about the character?
  3. What images do we need to pay attention to the story?
  4. Are there any dialogues that catch your eye? If so, share with the group and explain what it means to you.
  5. What is an example of denotation in your novel? Explain how it makes you feel and what ideas come to your head.

Lit Circle Discussion #2

This discussion will be split into parts 1 & 2. Part 1 includes questions 1-5 and part 2 has question 6.


  1. What psychological conflicts drive the characters or the plot?
  2. What significant symbols are going to have a psychological effect on the characters in the story?
  3. Are there prominent words in the piece that could have different or hidden meanings? Could there be a subconscious reason for the author using these “problem words”
  4. What do the instincts and decisions of the characters tell the reader about the author’s personal psychological lens?
  5. How does the Id of your character affect his or her decision making and actions? How is it balanced out by the ego and super ego?
  6. What impacts do u believe the psychological effects of the war will have on the characters and what potential future conflicts could it result in?

Group Members: Sean Hudson, Ryan Raposo, Edward Yang, Jenna Woychyshyn