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 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 the angels 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.

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