The Conqueror Worm - Edgar Allan Poe

Part of the tale 'Ligeia'. 'Ligeia' was first published in the Baltimore American Museum (18 September 1838). Subsequently published in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, and extensively revised for publication in the Broadway Journal (27 September 1845). 'The Conqueror Worm' was originally published separately in Graham's Magazine (January 1843) and only incorporated as part of 'Ligeia' with the Broadway Journal revision. Poe considered 'Ligeia' to be his best tale.

	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 Wo!

        That motley drama! -- oh, be sure
           It shall not be forgot!
        With its Phantom chased forever more,
           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 seraphs 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.

Edgar Allan Poe
(c) Keith Parkins 1999 -- April 1999 rev 0