Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
The first stanza represents a prayer that takes place in the dark by the speaker of the poem. In this prayer, he is thanking "whatever gods may be" for his unconquerable soul, which infers the possible darkness of despair. The speaker, however, is not praying for strength but giving thanks to the strength he already has. On the other hand, he seems rather dismissive about who he is praying to and portrays agnosticism.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
The agnosticism continues into the second stanza due to not mentioning anything about God's will for him, or his fate. Instead, he uses "In the fell clutch of circumstance" to mean he is being cruelly caught as prey in the claws of life at its most unpredictable moments. Bludgeoning has the definition of being beaten or forced down, and Henley uses this to depict a very powerful message of inner strength. This certain strength that is presented includes the ability to conquer the troubles of life even if someone is beaten down.
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.
In the third stanza, the speaker introduces his feelings of the afterlife, and that he believes it does not exist. In fact, in this part of the poem he explains that death is merely an escape from this life, and an end to the suffering. He is not concerned about what happens after death, and he represents that by not being worried about the end.
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.
This last stanza is a major contributor to the fame of this poem, given that these last few lines hold the greatest meaning and...