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An interpretation of the following lines from "Invictus"?  "It matters not how...

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rtan6 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted February 7, 2009 at 12:18 AM via web

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An interpretation of the following lines from "Invictus"? 

"It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll ..."

Those 2 lines were followed by the famous "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.".  But the two preceding lines blur my attempt to understand the context in which he wrote them.  I know that he was ill and probably wrote these lines in a hospital.  He was also an antheist.  But the first 2 lines suggest he was at Heaven's gate (?).  PLease help!

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ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 7, 2009 at 2:41 AM (Answer #1)

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The defiant tone of this poem reinforced by the two Biblical allusions in the lines you are referring to. "It matters not how strait the gate" is an allusion to Matthew 7:13 when Jesus says, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it." Jesus is saying that those who go to heaven must go through a narrow or "straight" gate. Henley obvious disagrees with this Biblical injunction because he is saying it doesn't matter how "straight" or narrow the gate is, Henley will decide his own fate. The second part of the line" How charged with punishments the scroll. . . is also a Biblcal allusion to Revelation 20:12"

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christina0811 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 24, 2010 at 6:26 AM (Answer #2)

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The actual line says, "It matters not how strait the gait..." The definition of strait is difficult or challenging, and the definition of gait is the way a person walks (or a horse trots). So the direct translation is, "It matters not how difficult the journey or hike, how consequential their laws.." The narrator is stating his defiance to the others who are the rulers of the conquered.

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