Home  »  Yale Book of American Verse  »  87 The Conqueror Worm

Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. (1838–1915). Yale Book of American Verse. 1912.

Edgar Allan Poe 1809–1849

Edgar Allan Poe

87 The Conqueror Worm

LO! ’t is a gala night

Within the lonesome latter years.

An angel 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 formless things

That shift the scenery to and fro,

Flapping from out their condor wings

Invisible Woe.

That motley drama—oh, be sure

It shall not be forgot!

With its Phantom chased for evermore

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 over each quivering form

In human gore imbued.

Out—out are the lights—out all!

And over each quivering form

The curtain, a funeral pall,

Comes down with the rush of a storm,

While the angels, all pallid and wan,

Uprising, unveiling, affirm

That the play is the tragedy, “Man,”

And its hero, the Conqueror Worm.