The Conqueror Worm
Lo! ’tis a gala night
Within the lonesome latter years —
A mystic throng, bewinged, bedight
In veils and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre to see
A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.
Mimes, in the form of God on high,
Mutter and mumble low,
And hither and thither fly —
Mere puppets they, who come and go
At bidding of vast shadowy things
That shift the scenery to and fro,
Flapping from out their Condor wings
That motley drama — oh, be sure
It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased forevermore,
By a crowd that seize it not
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot,
And much of Madness and more of Sin,
And Horror the soul of the plot.
But see, amid the mimic rout,
A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes! — it writhes! — with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food,
And the angels sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued!
Out — out are the lights — out all!
And, over each dying form,
The curtain, a funeral pall,
Comes down with the rush of a storm,
And the seraphs, all haggard and wan,
Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy “Man,”
Its hero the Conqueror Worm.
Edgar Allan Poe
Originally published in Poe’s story “Ligeia” in 1843
Image by Edmund Dulac