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     Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)


    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 the angels sob at vermin fangs
        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,
    And the angels, all pallid and wan,
        Uprising, unveiling, affirm
    That the play is the tragedy "Man,"
        And its hero the Conqueror Worm.


Originally published for the January 1843 issue of Graham's Magazine, The Conqueror Worm can be found in:
  • Poe, Edgar Allan. The Poetical Works of Edgar Allan Poe. New York: J.S. Redfield, 1858.
  • Poe, Edgar Allan. Complete Poems. Thomas Ollive Mabbot, ed. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2000.