Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “The Conqueror Worm,” Richmond Examiner proof sheets, about September 1849


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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 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 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.

 


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Notes:

This version includes changes Poe made in his own copy of The Raven and Other Poems. In addition, there are a few minor differences in regard to the capitalization of words such as “wo” and “phantom.”

Because these proof sheets have not been located, it has been necessary to produce the present text based on the description provided in 1911 by J. H. Whitty in his edition of Poe’s Complete Poems.


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[S:1 - REPS, 1849 (Whitty, 1911)] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - The Conqueror Worm