4 min.
2014

premiered by the Princeton Singers on June 28, 2014

“This short, five-minute work, divided into three movements according to the poem’s progress of moods, managed a rare feat: by means of dexterous, imaginative use of harmonies, Rule evoked the quintessentially Victorian spirit of the text while writing music that was distinct and modern. Rhythmic starts and syncopations together with melodic complexities established the specific anxieties of the ‘fell clutch of circumstance’ which Henley, man and poet, faced. The third stanza – the poet’s confrontation with horror and fear – provided a pensive transition to the final harmonic grandeur of the poet’s victorious captaincy of soul.”

— Jean Ballard Terepka (theaterscene.net, June 2017)

Performance note: While the E minor score may work best for experienced voices, the piece may sit a little high for high school or college singers. If performing this piece with younger singers, I would recommend using the D minor score. (Both scores are included with downloaded purchases.)

Program Notes

This piece is a setting of the famed Victorian poem of the same name by William Ernest Henley. Henley grew up in poverty, the son of a stuggling bookseller who died when Henley was a teenager. As a child, Henley was diagnosed with tuberculosis of the bone which necessitated an amputation of one of his legs. Later, in his twenties, Henley was told he would have to lose the other leg as well, but instead sought an alternative treatment. Over the course of the next few years, Henley was treated at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where he began to write poetry, including this then-untitled poem. Decades later, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, when including it in his Oxford Book of English Verse, would title the poem “Invictus”, which in Latin means “unconquered”.

Text

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 Ernest Henley (1849–1903)

— William Ernest Henley, (1849 – 1903)

After completing your purchase, you will be emailed a link to download the PDFs, allowing you to print off the score right away.

This download contains two PDF scores: one in the original key and one in the lower key recommended for younger singers.

Digital download:

  • per copy
    Number of copies (min. 12):
Add to Cart

The "Unlimited copies" option for digital downloads may only be used by the choir for whom you are purchasing the license. Permission is not given to share an unlimited license across different choirs and organizations.


Ready to checkout? Click here to complete your order.

Listen

Browse the scores

D minor

E minor