Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods maybe
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 Ernest Henley

‘Invictus,’ which was written in 1875 when Henley was still in his mid-twenties, was first published in 1888 without its distinctive title (Latin for ‘unconquered’).

The title wasn’t even Henley’s idea, but when Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch added the poem to The Oxford Book of English Verse in 1900, he appended the memorable Latin title.

W E Henley’s poem talks about Stoicism in the face of adversity. He lost a leg at a very young age owing to Tuberculosis. His poem has originated due to coping with a physical condition, and somewhere the mental agony and trauma he was going through can be felt in the words he has written.

So what is Stoicism? Stoicism’s dictionary meaning is the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and complaint. Stoicism is also a philosophy that considers that one should live in harmony with the divine Reason or Fate that governs nature by not becoming affected by pleasure or pain.

Though Stoicism is an ancient philosophy, it is still relevant in modern times. To practice this philosophy, we don’t need to follow any particular religion. Hence this philosophy is as popular among atheists as it is among religious people.

Why stoicism matters?

Calmness in the face of adversity:
This philosophy teaches us that everything that happens to us is a part of the plan. When things are not going in our favor, it teaches us to be calm and take it all in our stride. Situations generally become more challenging to handle when we start looking for reasons behind every adversity we face. It is easier said than done, but if there is nothing you can do to change a situation, it would be wise to accept it for what it is rather than worrying unnecessarily.

Not to get too carried away with pleasure:
If pain is part of our life stories, so is a pleasure. Stoicism teaches us that we should not get too swayed away with the good phase of our lives. It is essential to stay grounded when everything goes as per our plans.

Nothing is permanent:
Stoicism also believes nothing is permanent—neither pain nor pleasure. If we believe in it, we would be able to lead a balanced life.

Teaches us Self-control:
Stoicism teaches us that before we try to control people, situations, and circumstances, we need to learn to control ourselves. In a way, Stoicism is an essential characteristic of successful leaders. A stoic attitude earns respect in the face of adversity and guards them against arrogance in the face of success.

Stoicism, though, is not very easy yet not impossible to practice. If we practice Stoicism in our daily lives, we will practice it certainly when the need arises.

Vibha S Kapil