Top 16 Poems Like Invictus That Inspire, Give Hope and Remind Readers to Have Faith

Discover our list of poems like Invictus that inspire, give hope and motivate humanity to be strong and stand up to life’s challenges. 

When William Ernest Henley wrote the famous inspirational poem Invictus, he was laid up in a hospital suffering from a painful disease known during that time as tuberculosis of the bone. He’d already lost one of his legs below the knee, and now he was relegated to lying in a hospital bed for three long years in his early twenties. Instead of taking pity on himself, Henley decided to take the high road. He wrote Invictus to declare his unwavering commitment to stand strong and not let life beat him down.

“Invictus” is a poem that inspires millions of people the world over. When Henley declared in his poem that he was “master of my fate” and had an “unconquerable soul,” his words resonated with people from all walks of life. Consider these poems like “Invictus”which have inspired others to live well and be strong in adversity. You might also be interested in our guide on the best Mary Oliver poems.

Top Poems Like Invictus Ranked

1. “How Did You Die?” by Edmund Vance Cooke, 1866 – 1932

How Did You Die?, a lyrical poem by Edmund Vance Cooke
How Did You Die?, a lyrical poem by Edmund Vance Cooke

Edmund Vance Cooke lived during the 19th and early 20th centuries, best remembered for his motivational poem, “How Did You Die?” He was born in Canada West but lived the majority of his life in the Midwest of the U.S. “How Did You Die?” is composed of a series of questions intended to help the reader scrutinize what they deem valuable in their life.

The author, Edmund Vance Cooke, says that the worst defeat is giving up and not living to one’s highest potential. In his line, “You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what’s that? Come up with a smiling face. It’s nothing against you to fall down flat, But to lie there — that’s disgrace.” Cooke is unsympathetic to those who give in with a defeatist attitude.

“It isn’t the fact that you’re dead that counts, but only how did you die?”

Edmund Vance Cooke, “How Did You Die?”

2. “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann, 1872 – 1945

Desiderata, a poem by Max Ehrmann
Desiderata, a poem by Max Ehrmann

“Desiderata” is a Latin word meaning “the desired.” The poem is a list of virtues and attitudes desired in life, but it’s much more than that. It’s a counsel for life with helpful advice to make life good. With phrases like “Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story,” and “Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection,” this literary work gives sound wisdom that anyone can apply to their life.

Max Ehrmann often wrote on matters of a spiritual nature, but his professional writing career didn’t begin until the age of 40 when he quit his job to write full-time. Ehrmann spoke of writing Desiderata, saying that he wrote it as a reminder to himself because it advised virtues he felt he needed most.

“Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.”

Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”

3. “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman, 1819 – 1892

Song Of Myself, a poem by Walt Whitman
Song Of Myself, a poem by Walt Whitman

“Song of Myself” is a long poem written in free verse by Walt Whitman and is part of a larger collection called “Leaves of Grass.” The poem is free verse, meaning it doesn’t follow a regular rhyme or rhythm pattern. It’s divided into 52 sections and covers a wide range of topics. Whitman uses the poem to explore his identity, relationship with the world around him, and beliefs about life and death. This poem is often compared to Invictus by William Ernest Henley.

Walt Whitman was a journalist, poet and essayist considered the father of free verse. He was influenced by the ideas of transcendentalism, which is a philosophy that believes in the inherent goodness of people and nature. Whitman saw himself as an average person, and he used the poem to represent the voice of the common man.

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself…”

Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

4. “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou, 1928 – 2014

Phenomenal Woman, a poem by Maya Angelou
Phenomenal Woman, a poem by Maya Angelou

Phenomenal Woman was written in 1978 by prolific writer Maya Angelou. The speaker talks about an invisible secret that she has that attracts men to her, with the opening line, “Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.” Angelou says that her attraction is not the classic beauty standard that society has set for women.

Maya Angelou was a poet, essayist and book author who gained acclaim in the literary world after publishing her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She was a prolific writer and one of only two poets to recite at the inauguration of an American president, Robert Frost having been the first. Angelou wrote Phenomenal Woman as a response to how she saw women being treated by men in their personal and professional lives.

“I walk into a room just as cool as you please…”

Maya Angelou, “Phenomenal Woman”

5. “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou, 1928 – 2014

Poem cover of Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
Poem cover of Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

“Still I Rise” is an inspirational message similar to the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. The speaker lists a cacophony of offenses against her but repeats, “Still I Rise,” to show her refusal to be beaten down. In the poem, she speaks to an unknown person, asking questions like, “Does my haughtiness offend you? Does my sassiness upset you? Does my sexiness upset you?”

During her lifetime, Maya Angelou became an activist for women’s rights and was a prominent figure in the civil rights movement. After she joined the Harlem Writers Guild, she went to an event where Martin Luther King was speaking and was inspired to get involved in the civil rights movement. The poem “Still I Rise” calls for Black women to stand against oppression and discrimination.

“Just like hopes springing high, still I’ll rise.”

Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise”

6. “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, 1874 – 1963

Poem cover of The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Poem cover of The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

“The Road Not Taken” is one of the most famous poems in the world. In particular, the writer’s lines in the last stanza often quote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” The two roads discussed in the poem represent life’s different opportunities. The writer expresses sorrow that he can’t experience both as just one person.

Robert Frost wrote “The Road Not Taken” for a friend who always seemed to lament what could have been if he had chosen differently. The poem was praised as an inspired piece of literature to be used to motivate younger generations. Today, the poem’s last lines are frequently quoted for the same reason.

“And both that morning equally lay in leaves no step had trodden black.”

Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”

7. “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” by Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886

Poem cover of Hope Is The Thing With Feathers by Emily Dickinson
Poem cover of Hope Is The Thing With Feathers by Emily Dickinson

“Hope is the Thing with Feathers” is a lyrical poem that explores the abstract idea of hope in the symbolic image of a bird. The poem is composed of three stanzas, each with varying lengths and an irregular rhyme scheme, which is typical of Dickinson’s poetry. The bird metaphor captures the essence of hope, which is light, delicate but strong and enduring.

Emily Dickinson was a prolific poet but her social circle was kept to a very small few. Later, she became a recluse and was rarely seen in public. Though Dickinson struggled to remain engaged with the world during her lifetime, her poem serves to help others to find comfort and strength from within.

“I’ve heard it in the chillest land.”

Emily Dickinson, “Hope is the Thing With Feathers”

8. “If-” by Rudyard Kipling, 1865 – 1936

Poem cover of If- by Rudyard Kipling
Poem cover of If- by Rudyard Kipling

“If-” is a classic example of Victorian-era stoicism in reaction to a political raid by Leander Starr Jameson and conveys a parent’s advice to their son. It was first published in a collection of verses called Rewards and Fairies in 1909. It encourages the reader to remain calm in the face of adversity, to maintain integrity even when others doubt you, to wait patiently without complaint, not to lie or deal with hate, and to remain humble in success.

The poem ends with the lines: “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, / And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!” This is the reward for meeting all the conditions set out in the poem: not only will the reader inherit the Earth, but they will also achieve the highest state of being, becoming a “Man” in the fullest sense.

“If you can dream-and not make dreams your master…”

Rudyard Kipling, “If-“

9. “Dreams” by Langston Hughes, 1901 – 1967

Dreams, a poem by Langston Hughes
Dreams, a poem by Langston Hughes

“Dreams” by Langston Hughes is a short poem with only two stanzas. However, with the economy of words comes a density of value for the reader. The author counsels the reader not to let go of dreams. There is a warning that if dreams are let go, life is “a barren field.”

Langston Hughes grew up in Joplin, Missouri, until age 13, when he moved to Illinois with his mother and her new husband. He lived in a time when Blacks were heavily oppressed, and it’s understood that Dreams was written with this in mind, with words meant to warn Blacks never to let go of their dreams, despite the challenging times.

“Hold fast to dreams…”

Langston Hughes, “Dreams”

10. Our Deepest Fear, by Marianne Williamson, 1952 –

Our Deepest Fear, a poem by Marianne Williamson
Our Deepest Fear, a poem by Marianne Williamson

“Our Deepest Fear” is an often-cited poem about human potential. The poem addresses spirituality, religion, self-confidence and self-perception and encourages readers to recognize that what they fear is the light, not the darkness. The light represents the inherent power and potential within each human being.

Marianne Williamson is a motivational speaker and author of a multitude of books in the self-help genre. Oprah Winfrey heavily lauded her, inviting her to appear on Winfrey’s talk show several times. Williamson has also supported charities, founding her charity and serving as an advisor or board member for others—the poem “Our Deepest Fear” is found in her book, A Return to Love.

“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

Marianne Williamson, “Our Deepest Fear”

11. Ariel, by Sylvia Plath, 1932 – 1963

Poem cover of Ariel by Sylvia Plath
Poem cover of Ariel by Sylvia Plath

“Ariel” can be interpreted on several levels. On the surface, it describes a dawn horse ride, but beneath this narrative, it explores themes of freedom, fear, death and the struggle between chaos and control. The title refers to the name of Plath’s horse, but it also alludes to the spirit character Ariel in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, who is bound to serve the magician Prospero.

Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist, and short-story writer. Although academically gifted, her chronic battles with depression were a constant presence in her life, influencing much of her writing. The poem uses strong symbolism to express Plath’s struggles and her path to finding the freedom to express herself creatively.

“Splits and passes, sister to the brown arc of the neck I cannot catch.”

Sylvia Plath, “Ariel”

12. “Ode to Duty” by William Wordsworth, 1770 – 1850

Poem cover of Ode To Duty by William Wordsworth
Poem cover of Ode To Duty by William Wordsworth

In “Ode to Duty,” Wordsworth presents duty as a guiding light, a source of freedom, and a moral compass that leads to virtue and serenity. The poem is structured as an ode, a form traditionally used to address and celebrate a person, idea, or thing, in this case, duty. It consists of seven stanzas, each with six lines, following a rhyming scheme of ABABCC. The poem’s language is formal, and its tone is respectful, reflecting the poet’s deep respect for duty.

William Wordsworth, one of the most prominent figures of the Romantic period in English literature, often explored themes of nature, emotion and individuality in his work. In writing this ode, Wordsworth sought solace and guidance in duty, which he viewed as a stabilizing and grounding force.

“Serene will be our days and bright…”

William Wordsworth, “Ode to Duty”

13. “Start Where You Stand” by Berton Braley, 1882 – 1966

Berton Braley
Berton Braley

“Start Where You Stand” is a motivational poem like “Invictus”, penned by prolific writer Berton Braley. The poem encourages readers to focus on the present and future rather than dwelling on the past. The poem’s central message is that every new day presents fresh opportunities and challenges, and it’s important to face them head-on, unburdened by past failures or successes.

Berton Braley was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and his father, a judge, passed away when Braley was only seven years old. The themes of resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity, as seen in Start Where You Stand, may have been influenced by his early life experiences. Braley’s poetry often encourages self-reliance and optimism, reflecting his belief in the power of individual will and the potential for personal reinvention.

“Start where you stand and never mind the past…”

Berton Braley, “Start Where You Stand”

14. “Don’t Quit” by Edgar A. Guest, 1881 – 1959

Don't Quit, a poem by Edgar A. Guest
Don’t Quit, a poem by Edgar A. Guest

“Don’t Quit” is a motivational poem by Edgar A. Guest that encourages readers to persevere through challenging times. The poem’s central message is to keep going, even when the situation seems dire. For example, the author states, “When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill…Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.” The poem has a consistent rhythm and rhyme scheme that adds to its motivational and uplifting tone.

Edgar A. Guest was a British-American poet who became known as The People’s Poet. His poems often had an inspirational and optimistic view of everyday life. Guest was born in Birmingham, England, but his family moved from England to Detroit, Michigan, when he was ten years old, and Guest remained there until he died. Guest’s poetry often reflects his belief in resilience, hard work and optimism.

“When care is pressing you down a bit, rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.”

Edgar A. Guest, “Don’t Quit”

15. A Psalm of Life, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807 – 1882

Poem cover of A Psalm Of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Poem cover of A Psalm Of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The overriding message of “A Psalm of Life” is to be a dutiful person and fulfill all your responsibilities with a good attitude. There is a reminder that life is short and that everyone must play their part for the good of humanity. The poem is pleasant to read, as it is written as a ballad, with nine quatrains, following an ABAB rhyming pattern.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is renowned for his lyrical poems with musical qualities and enjoyed much success during his lifetime as a celebrated poet. The inspiration for “A Psalm of Life” is the death of Longfellow’s first wife and child from a miscarriage, trying to self-comfort and finding meaning in life after tragedy.

“Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “A Psalm of Life”

16. “Love After Love” by Derek Walcott, 1930 – 2017

Love After Love, a poem by Derek Walcott
Love After Love, a poem by Derek Walcott

One of Derek Walcott’s most famous poems is Love After Love, where he encourages readers who have experienced the heartbreak of a love loss to reunite with their authentic selves. Walcott reminds the reader that life will go on as it should, and the person who loved you always—yourself—is still there in the mirror.

Derek Walcott was a poet and playwright honored with the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992. He also received several other literary awards, including the Queen’s Medal for Poetry, the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Obie Award, among others. His poem Love After Love was written to help others endure romantic breakups, as he had recently experienced.

“You will love again the stranger who was your self.”

Derek Walcott, “Love After Love”

Looking for more? Check out our round-up of famous poems you’ll love!


  • Kate has been writing since she was 10 years old, tapping away on an old typewriter in her childhood bedroom. Today, Kate is a seasoned freelance writer with over 10 years of experience writing for print and online media. She’s an avid reader and believes in the power of words to transport readers to new worlds, and inspire and nurture creativity. Kate is also a published author and is currently working on her next project.