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(1849 - 1902 / Gloucester / England)

William Ernest Henley
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William Ernest Henley (August 23, 1849 - July 11, 1903) was a British poet, critic and editor.

Henley was born in Gloucester and educated at the Crypt Grammar School. The school was a poor relation of the Cathedral School, and Henley indicated its shortcomings in his article (Pall Mall Magazine, Nov. 1900) on T. E. Brown the poet, who was headmaster there for a brief period. Brown's appointment was a stroke of luck for Henley, for whom it represented a first acquaintance with a man of genius. "He was singularly kind to me at a moment when I needed kindness even more than I needed encouragement." Brown did him the essential service of lending him books. Henley was no classical ... more »

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  • ''What have I done for you,
    England, my England?
    What is there I would not do,
    England, my own?''
    William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), British poet, critic, editor. England, My England (l. 1-4). . . Oxford Book of English Verse, The, 1250-1918. S...
  • For it's home, dearie, home—it's home I want to be.
    Our topsails are hoisted, and we'll away to sea.
    O, the oak and the ash and the bonnie birken tree
    They're all growing gre...
    William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), British poet, critic, editor. Falmouth (l. 23-26). . . Modern British Poetry. Louis Untermeyer, ed. (7th rev. e...
  • O, there's a wind a-blowing, a-blowing from the west,
    And that of all the winds is the one I like the best,
    For it blows at our backs, and it shakes our pennon free,
    And it soon w...
    William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), British poet, critic, editor. Falmouth (l. 19-22). . . Modern British Poetry. Louis Untermeyer, ed. (7th rev. e...
  • ''Madam Life's a piece in bloom
    Death goes dogging everywhere:
    She's the tenant of the room,
    He's the ruffian on the stair.''
    William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), British poet, critic, editor. Madam Life's a Piece in Bloom (l. 1-4). . . Oxford Book of Death, The. D. J. Enri...
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  • Charles Darnell (7/3/2013 4:12:00 PM)

    In answer to Suresh, I believe Henley was referring to death with no afterlife. If you place his life within a historical context, the theory of Evolution had emerged as a dominate force in science. Many people despaired that the theory killed the idea of God. They came to think that there was no God, heaven, or indeed any kind of life after death. I think Henley embraced this and hence the line. This idea is further re-enforced by his final line I am the captain of my other words, I am responsible for my life, my actions, my spirit and answerable to myself (not to God) .
    This is one of my all time favorite poems.

  • Sharon Coakley (3/19/2013 2:38:00 AM)

    to me this poet had a will to fight. he did not let his struggles no matter how hard it seemed conquered him. He seem very much in touch with pain and hardship and some how his spirit is unbreakable.

  • Jed Mills (2/12/2013 4:00:00 PM)

    I find that the life of this man is very interesting and sad.

  • Suresh Bala (7/5/2010 8:38:00 AM)


    Can someone elaborate the line about the 'Horror of the shade'? Is this a biblical reference?

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