William Ernest Henley's lyric poem "Invictus" has as its theme the drive to thrive even when confronted by a difficult trial. In Henley's own life, his trial was facing tuberculosis as a young man; an infection caused him to lose one leg below the knee. However, when a similar infection struck his other leg, he sought the advice of a medical pioneer who saved it for him.
One of Henley's close friends was the author Robert Louis Stevenson, and when Stevenson wrote "Treasure Island," the classic character Long John Silver (who happens to be a pirate with a peg leg) was based on Henley. Henley actually wrote "Invictus" and several other poems during his twenty-month stay at Scotland's Royal Edinburgh Infirmary, as Dr. Joseph Lister attempted to use his innovative antiseptic medicines on Henley's infection. Lister, whose name was the inspiration behind Listerine, the first antiseptic mouthwash, was eventually able to eliminate the infection and save Henley's leg.
The poem "Invictus" has stood the test of time as a classic. Some critics consider it mediocre in terms of literary merit, and it does not appear in many anthologies. Even so, it continues to be a motivating work for many readers today.Learn More
The theme of Rudyard Kipling's poem "If" revolves around the coming of age of his son and the poem lists different virtues that would help his child become a man. The last line of the poem directly refers to the son, which makes it sound far more personal than it was at the beginning.Full Answer >
The theme of Walt Whitman's poem "Oh Captain, My Captain" is the death of President Abraham Lincoln just as the Civil War ends. The themes of mourning the death of the one who was the captain of the ship (the nation) and rejoicing over the victory intertwine throughout the poem.Full Answer >
William Stafford's poem "Fifteen" has strong themes of youth, morality and coming of age. The short poem tells the story of a fifteen-year-old who comes across a seemingly abandoned motorcycle and makes a choice about what to do with it.Full Answer >
The theme of “The Fly” by the English poet Walter de la Mare is enlightenment through defamiliarization. Though the tone of the poem is whimsical, it causes the reader to pause and reconsider the beauty of the simplest, smallest things. To help convey the surprising complexity of ordinary objects, de la Mare makes use of vivid imagery as well as figurative language in the form of metaphor and simile.Full Answer >