"Invictus" by William Ernest Henley, 1875
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.
On like an apple
A NOISELESS, patient spider, I mark’d, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated; Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding, It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself; Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you, O my Soul, where you stand, Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space, Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,—seeking the spheres, to connect them; Till the bridge you will need, be form’d—till the ductile anchor hold; Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.
I will open the discussion.
The first time I read Whitman's "Noiseless Patient Spider," I still remember, the first words of the second stanza struck me hard. The metaphor was so unexpected. And so apt. I guess that is why I love the poem so much. That quality, that pinpointing of the obvious mysteries of this life we live, that is what I most love in poetry.
In general, it took me a couple of years to love Whitman. At first I found his free form, expansive, conversational lines to be too confessional, too self-absorbed, even for me. And too undisciplined, I guess. It felt like having a conversation (or "standing audience," more like) with someone who is possessed of much more discretionary time and appreciation for the sound of his own voice, than I.