“The Conqueror Worm” by Edgar Allan Poe

Authors. Writers. Books. Poems. Literature History.

Let us continue talking about Poe by referencing more of his excellent poetry.

I remember having a conversation about recognizing horror authors’ contributions to literature more often (and their influence has certainly grown since having this conversation), and one of the poems referenced was “The Conqueror Worm” by Edgar Allan Poe.

Much like “The Raven,” it’s mechanically sound and evil (unequivocally menacing: “It writhes! –It writhes!”), and it’s also a magnificent addition to Poe’s already airtight catalogue of horror and suspense.

Before reading the poem, all you must know is that “The Conqueror Worm” is about humanity and the “tragedy” (or “victory) that is the beast.

The following is the poem:

“The Conqueror Worm” by Edgar Allan Poe

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.