The Conqueror Worm
Poe, Edgar Allan (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 hope 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 fogot!
  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 seraphs sob at vermin fangs
    In human gore imbuded.

  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.


Anthology of American Poetry (Gesner)