William Henley, fully William Ernest Henley

William
Henley, fully William Ernest Henley
1849
1903

English Author, Poet, Critic and Editor best known for his poem "Invictus"

Author Quotes

O Death! O Change! O Time! Without you, O! the insufferable eyes Of these poor Might-Have-Beens, These fatuous, ineffectual yesterdays.

O, it's die we must, but it's live we can, and the marvel of earth and sun is all for the joy of woman and man and the longing that makes them one.

Open your heart and take us in, love-love and me.

Or ever the knightly years were gone with the old world to the grave, I was a king in Babylon And you were a Christian slave.

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.

The nightingale has a lyre of gold, the lark's is a clarion call, and the blackbird plays but a boxwood flute, but I love him best of all. For his song is all the joy of life, and we in the mad spring weather, we two have listened till he sang our hearts and lips together.

The smoke ascends in a rosy-and-golden haze. The spires Shine and are changed. In the valley shadows rise. The lark sings on. The sun closing his benediction, Sinks, and the darkening air Thrills with the sense of the triumphing night-- Night with train of stars and her great gift of sleep.

Under the bludgeonings of chance my head is bloody, but unbowed.

What is the voice of strange command Calling you still, as friend calls friend, With love that cannot brook delay, To rise and follow the ways that wend Over the hills and far away.

A late lark twitters from the quiet skies: and from the west, where the sun, his day's work ended, lingers as in content, there falls on the old, gray city, an influence luminous and serene, a shining peace.

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.

Failing yet gracious, Slow pacing, soon homing, A patriarch that strolls Through the tents of his children, The sun as he journeys His round on the lower Ascents of the blue, Washes the roofs And the hillsides with clarity.

Here is the ghost of a summer that lived for us, here is a promise of summer to be.

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

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 bludgeoning of chance my head is bloody, but unbowed.

It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll. I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.

Madam, Life's a piece in bloom death goes dogging everywhere: She's the tenant of the room he's the ruffian on the stair.

Men may scoff, and men may pray, but they pay every pleasure with a pain.

Night with her train of stars and her great gift of sleep.

Croquis -
The beach was crowded. Pausing now and then,
He groped and fiddled doggedly along,
His worn face glaring on the thoughtless throng
The stony peevishness of sightless men.
He seemed scarce older than his clothes. Again,
Grotesquing thinly many an old sweet song,
So cracked his fiddle, his hand so frail and wrong,
You hardly could distinguish one in ten.
He stopped at last, and sat him on the sand,
And, grasping wearily his bread-winner,
Staring dim towards the blue immensity,
Then leaned his head upon his poor old hand.
He may have slept: he did not speak nor stir:
His gesture spoke a vast despondency.

Margaritae Sorori -
A late lark twitters from the quiet skies:
And from the west,
Where the sun, his day's work ended,
Lingers as in content,
There falls on the old, gray city
An influence luminous and serene,
A shining peace.

The smoke ascends
In a rosy-and-golden haze. The spires
Shine and are changed. In the valley
Shadows rise. The lark sings on. The sun,
Closing his benediction,
Sinks, and the darkening air
Thrills with a sense of the triumphing night--
Night with her train of stars
And her great gift of sleep.

So be my passing!
My task accomplish'd and the long day done,
My wages taken, and in my heart
Some late lark singing,
Let me be gather'd to the quiet west,
The sundown splendid and serene,
Death.

Double Ballade on the Nothingness of Things -
The big teetotum twirls,
And epochs wax and wane
As chance subsides or swirls;
But of the loss and gain
The sum is always plain.
Read on the mighty pall,
The weed of funeral
That covers praise and blame,
The -isms and the -anities,
Magnificence and shame:--
"O Vanity of Vanities!"

The Fates are subtle girls!
They give us chaff for grain.
And Time, the Thunderer, hurls,
Like bolted death, disdain
At all that heart and brain
Conceive, or great or small,
Upon this earthly ball.
Would you be knight and dame?
Or woo the sweet humanities?
Or illustrate a name?
O Vanity of Vanities!

We sound the sea for pearls,
Or drown them in a drain;
We flute it with the merles,
Or tug and sweat and strain;
We grovel, or we reign;
We saunter, or we brawl;
We search the stars for Fame,
Or sink her subterranities;
The legend's still the same:--
"O Vanity of Vanities!"

Here at the wine one birls,
There some one clanks a chain.
The flag that this man furls
That man to float is fain.
Pleasure gives place to pain:
These in the kennel crawl,
While others take the wall.
She has a glorious aim,
He lives for the inanities.
What come of every claim?
O Vanity of Vanities!

Alike are clods and earls.
For sot, and seer, and swain,
For emperors and for churls,
For antidote and bane,
There is but one refrain:
But one for king and thrall,
For David and for Saul,
For fleet of foot and lame,
For pieties and profanities,
The picture and the frame:--
"O Vanity of Vanities!"

Life is a smoke that curls--
Curls in a flickering skein,
That winds and whisks and whirls,
A figment thin and vain,
Into the vast Inane.
One end for hut and hall!
One end for cell and stall!
Burned in one common flame
Are wisdoms and insanities.
For this alone we came:--
"O Vanity of Vanities!"

Envoy
Prince, pride must have a fall.
What is the worth of all
Your state's supreme urbanities?
Bad at the best's the game.
Well might the Sage exclaim:--
"O Vanity of Vanities!"

Though, if you ask her name, she says Elise,
Being plain Elizabeth, e'en let it pass,
And own that, if her aspirates take their ease,
She ever makes a point, in washing glass,
Handling the engine, turning taps for tots,
And countering change, and scorning what men say,
Of posing as a dove among the pots,
Nor often gives her dignity away.
Her head's a work of art, and, if her eyes
Be tired and ignorant, she has a waist;
Cheaply the Mode she shadows; and she tries
From penny novels to amend her taste;
And, having mopped the zinc for certain years,
And faced the gas, she fades and disappears.

Ballade of Dead Actors - Where are the passions they essayed,
And where the tears they made to flow?
Where the wild humours they portrayed
For laughing worlds to see and know?
Othello's wrath and Juliet's woe?
Sir Peter's whims and Timon's gall?
And Millamant and Romeo?
Into the night go one and all.
Where are the braveries, fresh or frayed?
The plumes, the armours -- friend and foe?
The cloth of gold, the rare brocade,
The mantles glittering to and fro?
The pomp, the pride, the royal show?
The cries of war and festival?
The youth, the grace, the charm, the glow?
Into the night go one and all.
The curtain falls, the play is played:
The Beggar packs beside the Beau;
The Monarch troops, and troops the Maid;
The Thunder huddles with the Snow.
Where are the revellers high and low?
The clashing swords? The lover's call?
The dancers gleaming row on row?
Into the night go one and all.

Author Picture
First Name
William
Last Name
Henley, fully William Ernest Henley
Birth Date
1849
Death Date
1903
Bio

English Author, Poet, Critic and Editor best known for his poem "Invictus"