The Conqueror Worm

Lo! 'tis 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 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.