Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

William Henley, fully William Ernest Henley

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

"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... 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."

"Invictus - 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."

"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. You shall see her as a friend, You shall bilk him once or twice; But he'll trap you in the end, And he'll stick you for her price. With his kneebones at your chest, And his knuckles in your throat, You would reason -- plead -- protest! Clutching at her petticoat; But she's heard it all before, Well she knows you've had your fun, Gingerly she gains the door, And your little job is done."

"The rain and the wind, the wind and the rain -- They are with us like a disease: They worry the heart, they work the brain, As they shoulder and clutch at the shrieking pane, And savage the helpless trees. What does it profit a man to know These tattered and tumbling skies A million stately stars will show, And the ruining grace of the after-glow And the rush of the wild sunrise? Ever the rain -- the rain and the wind! Come, hunch with me over the fire, Dream of the dreams that leered and grinned, Ere the blood of the Year got chilled and thinned, And the death came on desire!"

"Between the dusk of a summer night And the dawn of a summer day, We caught at a mood as it passed in flight, And we bade it stoop and stay. And what with the dawn of night began With the dusk of day was done; For that is the way of woman and man, When a hazard has made them one. Arc upon arc, from shade to shine, The World went thundering free; And what was his errand but hers and mine -- The lords of him, I and she? 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."

"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."

"There's a regret So grinding, so immitigably sad, Remorse thereby feels tolerant, even glad. ... Do you not know it yet? For deeds undone Rnakle and snarl and hunger for their due, Till there seems naught so despicable as you In all the grin o' the sun. Like an old shoe The sea spurns and the land abhors, you lie About the beach of Time, till by and by Death, that derides you too -- Death, as he goes His ragman's round, espies you, where you stray, With half-an-eye, and kicks you out of his way And then -- and then, who knows But the kind Grave Turns on you, and you feel the convict Worm, In that black bridewell working out his term, Hanker and grope and crave? "Poor fool that might -- That might, yet would not, dared not, let this be, Think of it, here and thus made over to me In the implacable night!" And writhing, fain And like a triumphing lover, he shall take, His fill where no high memory lives to make His obscene victory vain."

"O gather me the rose, the rose, While yet in flower we find it, For summer smiles, but summer goes, And winter waits behind it. For with the dream foregone, foregone, The deed foreborn forever, The worm Regret will canker on, And time will turn him never. So were it well to love, my love, And cheat of any laughter The fate beneath us, and above, The dark before and after. The myrtle and the rose, the rose, The sunshine and the swallow, The dream that comes, the wish that goes The memories that follow!"

"I am the Reaper. All things with heedful hook Silent I gather. Pale roses touched with the spring, Tall corn in summer, Fruits rich with autumn, and frail winter blossoms— Reaping, still reaping— All things with heedful hook Timely I gather. I am the Sower. All the unbodied life Runs through my seed-sheet. Atom with atom wed, Each quickening the other, Fall through my hands, ever changing, still changeless. Ceaselessly sowing, Life, incorruptible life, Flows from my seed-sheet. Maker and breaker, I am the ebb and the flood, Here and Hereafter, Sped through the tangle and coil Of infinite nature, Viewless and soundless I fashion all being. Taker and giver, I am the womb and the grave, The Now and the Ever."

"What have I done for you, England, my England? What is there I would not do, England, my own? With your glorious eyes austere, As the Lord were walking near, Whispering terrible things and dear As the Song on your bugles blown, England-- Round the world on your bugles blown! Where shall the watchful sun, England, my England, Match the master-work you've done, England, my own? When shall he rejoice agen Such a breed of mighty men As come forward, one to ten, To the Song on your bugles blown, England-- Down the years on your bugles blown? Ever the faith endures, England, my England:-- 'Take and break us: we are yours, England, my own! Life is good, and joy runs high Between English earth and sky: Death is death; but we shall die To the Song on your bugles blown, England-- To the stars on your bugles blown!' They call you proud and hard, England, my England: You with worlds to watch and ward, England, my own! You whose mail'd hand keeps the keys Of such teeming destinies, You could know nor dread nor ease Were the Song on your bugles blown, England, Round the Pit on your bugles blown! Mother of Ships whose might, England, my England, Is the fierce old Sea's delight, England, my own, Chosen daughter of the Lord, Spouse-in-Chief of the ancient Sword, There 's the menace of the Word In the Song on your bugles blown, England-- Out of heaven on your bugles blown!"

"Out of the poisonous East, Over a continent of blight, Like a maleficent Influence released From the most squalid cellerage of hell, The Wind-Fiend, the abominable-- The Hangman Wind that tortures temper and light-- Comes slouching, sullen and obscene, Hard on the skirts of the embittered night; And in a cloud unclean Of excremental humours, roused to strife By the operation of some ruinous change, Wherever his evil mandate run and range, Into a dire intensity of life, A craftsman at his bench, he settles down To the grim job of throttling London Town. So, by a jealous lightlessness beset That might have oppressed the dragons of old time Crunching and groping in the abysmal slime, A cave of cut-throat thoughts and villainous dreams, Hag-rid and crying with cold and dirt and wet, The afflicted City. prone from mark to mark In shameful occultation, seems A nightmare labryrinthine, dim and drifting, With wavering gulfs and antic heights, and shifting, Rent in the stuff of a material dark, Wherein the lamplight, scattered and sick and pale, Shows like the leper's living blotch of bale: Uncoiling monstrous into street on street Paven with perils, teeming with mischance, Where man and beast go blindfold and in dread, Working with oaths and threats and faltering feet Somewhither in the hideousness ahead; Working through wicked airs and deadly dews That make the laden robber grin askance At the good places in his black romance, And the poor, loitering harlot rather choose Go pinched and pined to bed Than lurk and shiver and curse her wretched way From arch to arch, scouting some threepenny prey. Forgot his dawns and far-flushed afterglows, His green garlands and windy eyots forgot, The old Father-River flows, His watchfires cores of menace in the gloom, As he came oozing from the Pit, and bore, Sunk in his filthily transfigured sides, Shoals of dishonoured dead to tumble and rot In the squalor of the universal shore: His voices sounding through the gruesome air As from the Ferry where the Boat of Doom With her blaspheming cargo reels and rides: The while his children, the brave ships, No more adventurous and fair, Nor tripping it light of heel as home-bound brides, But infamously enchanted, Huddle together in the foul eclipse, Or feel their course by inches desperately, As through a tangle of alleys murder-haunted, From sinister reach to reach out -- out -- to sea. And Death the while -- Death with his well-worn, lean, professional smile, Death in his threadbare working trim-- Comes to your bedside, unannounced and bland, And with expert, inevitable hand Feels at your windpipe, fingers you in the lung, Or flicks the clot well into the labouring heart: Thus signifying unto old and young, However hard of mouth or wild of whim, 'Tis time -- 'tis time by his ancient watch -- to part From books and women and talk and drink and art. And you go humbly after him To a mean suburban lodging: on the way To what or where Not Death, who is old and very wise, can say: And you -- how should you care So long as, unreclaimed of hell, The Wind-Fiend, the insufferable, Thus vicious and thus patient, sits him down To the black job of burking London Town?"

"If I were king, my pipe should be premier. The skies of time and chance are seldom clear, We would inform them all with bland blue weather. Delight alone would need to shed a tear, For dream and deed should war no more together. Art should aspire, yet ugliness be dear; Beauty, the shaft, should speed with wit for feather; And love, sweet love, should never fall to sere, If I were king. But politics should find no harbour near; The Philistine should fear to slip his tether; Tobacco should be duty free, and beer; In fact, in room of this, the age of leather, An age of gold all radiant should appear, If I were king."

"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."

"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."

"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!""

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."