Tag Archives: William Ernest Henley

Quote of the Day

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“To love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.”

Ellen Bass (b. 1947)

I know what you’re thinking – there is a considerable amount of fromage dripping from this poem. True, but always remember that a little cheese never killed anyone. In fact, taken in moderation, like, say, one large portion of poutine a month, it’s actually quite healthy for you.

This Quote of the Day comes from the award-winning American poet Ellen Bass, who is also the co-author of the self-help book The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Sexual Abuse.

What I like about this poem is that it reminds us not to glamourize life when we are stuck in one of its many sinkholes. Acceptance, hope, life and love can coalesce, just not always in that romantic way we like to think when things seem shitty to quite shitty. Sometimes it’s best to simply reexamine life for what it is, a Plain Jane face lacking any charm or sparkle to the eye. But re-embrace it, we do, because it is our life. And as William Ernest Henley reminded us so eloquently almost a century and a half ago:

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.

 

 

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National Poetry Day

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In honour of #NationalPoetryDay, I’m posting what may very well be my favourite poem, William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus.” Latin for “unconquered” (a language not to be confused with what Dan Quayle once remarked: “I was recently on a tour of Latin America, and the only regret I have was that I didn’t study Latin harder in school so I could converse with those people”), Henley wrote the poem in 1875, only to wait 13 years to have it published.

 

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.

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