So you can read my books

Saturday, May 25, 2013


{Evocative image courtesy of Leonora Roy}

My songs were once of the sunrise:
They shouted it over the bar;
First-footing the dawns, they flourished,
And flamed with the morning star.
My songs are now of the sunset:
Their brows are touched with light,
But their feet are lost in the shadows
And wet with the dews of night.

Most of us know INVICTUS or at least the famous refrain of it.

But do you know its author, William Ernest Hemley?

From the age of 12 Henley suffered from tuberculosis of the bone which resulted in the amputation of his left leg below the knee during either 1865 or 1868–69.

According to Robert Louis Stevenson's letters, the idea for the character of Long John Silver was inspired by his real-life friend Henley.

Stevenson's stepson, Lloyd Osbourne,

described Henley as

"..a great, glowing, massive-shouldered fellow with a big red beard
and a crutch; jovial, astoundingly clever, a
nd with a laugh that rolled like music;
he had an unimaginable fire and vitality;
he swept one off one's feet".
In a letter to Henley after the publication of Treasure Island

Stevenson wrote
"I will now make a confession.
It was the sight of your maimed strength and masterfulness
that begot Long John Silver...
the idea of the maimed man, ruling and dreaded by the sound,
was entirely taken from you".

His literary acquaintances also resulted in his sickly young daughter, Margaret Henley (born 4 September 1888),

being immortalised by J. M. Barrie
in his children's classic Peter Pan.

Unable to speak clearly, the young Margaret referred to her friend Barrie as her "fwendy-wendy",

resulting in the use of the name Wendy,

which was coined for the book.
Margaret never read the book;

She died on 11 February 1894 at the age of 5
and was buried at the country estate of her father's friend,
Harry Cockayne Cust, in Cockayne Hatley, Bedfordshire.

When he died in 1903 at the age of 53 at his home in Woking,

he instructed his ashes be interred in his daughter's grave.

But let us remember him for his fiery love for his wife:

Between the dusk of a summer night
And the dawn of a summer day,

We caught at a mood as it passed in flight,
And we bade it stoop and stay.

And what with the dawn of night began
With the dusk of day was done;

For that is the way of woman and man,
When a hazard has made them one.

Arc upon arc, from shade to shine,
The World went thundering free;

And what was his errand but hers and mine—
The lords of him, I and she?

O, it’s die we must, but it’s live we can,
And the marvel of earth and sun

Is all for the joy of woman and man
And the longing that makes them one.

{Image courtesy of the gracious Leonora Roy}


  1. I've never heard either of these poems, but how lovely they are! And haunting.

    I knew a little about the background of Peter Pan, but not all of it. Or the connection to RLS.

    I'm totally stealing Invictis!

    I hope you're resting. And that you get a day off!

  2. Hi Roland .. I knew none of this .. and am so grateful you wrote this intertwining post. Fascinating historical aspects ...

    As LoW above says .. very evocative poems ...

    and I too hope you're getting some rest ... Hilary

  3. I didn't know any of this background info! Thanks for sharing, Roland.

    Seems like this man had many sad moments in his life, but also had a great passion!

  4. Like the previous commenters, I never knew any of this before, either. Thanks for sharing--those poems are so lovely!

  5. Interesting details about writers always fascinate. It brings them to a level we can identify with. If Henley was a passionate man, he would be so in all areas of his life.

    I'm not familiar with the poems, but now at least I know more, thanks to you. Hope your connection problems have been fixed.

  6. Words Crafter:
    Still in internet limbo. Sigh. I have to zip into work to visit the blogverse. Chancy because when you show up at work -- sometimes they put you to work!

    Today was healing -- mostly, discounting talking yet again to AT&T!

    There is no stealing with beauty and wisdom -- only sharing! Glad you liked Invictus!

    Aren't those poems haunting?

    I am trying to get some rest. And I am so very happy you found these poems evocative and the stories interesting!

    Trisha F:
    Sometimes sadness makes our souls better rather than bitter -- it is I guess what we decide to take away from those moments. Happy that you enjoyed this post!

    These two intertwining authors always fascinated me -- I thought my friends would be interested too. Glad I was right! Have a lovely Sunday.

    Humans are like beakers of clear water -- if we drop the blackness of bitterness into it, it darkens the whole. But sugar sweetens the whole of it when added, too.

    We tend to think of great writers as icons when they were but struggling souls as are we. My problems will not be solved until Tuesday the earliest. Aaaaargh!