William Henley, the author of this poem suffered from Tuberculosis from an early age, and had one of his legs amputed at age seventeen. He suffered much from the effects of the disease, until he was partially cured by Joseph Lister, a pioneer in the field of surgical sterilization. He wrote the poem while hospitalized with his afflictions. William Henley was acquainted with Robert Louis Stevenson, and is said to have been the inspiration for the peg-legged character, Long John Silver, in Stevenson's "Treasure Island."
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.
—William E. Henley