The Conqueror Worm

Edgar Allen Poe

The Good Stuff

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.

Mozart - Symphony No. 41 in C, K. 551 [complete] (Jupiter)

Why Mozart?

"As Orchestra breathes fitfully// The music of the spheres."


The 'music of the spheres' refers to the concept that the movement of heavenly bodies has a musical connotation, thus Mozart's "Jupiter" is appropriate.

The Play's the Thing

The poem carries a strong theatre motif throughout. Both of Poe's estranged parents were actors, so this may have been an attempt to identify with them through his work. The play itself is the life of man, and its end represents death, unveiling the theme of mortality and inevitable death. Using the motif, Poe compares the closing curtain to a funeral pall, and the traits Madness, Sin, and Horror as the major points in the plot of man. All in all, the theatrical motif is used to embellish.

Analysis

In this work, Poe speaks to death and the frailty of humanity. He talks of wicked monsters eating people, their teeth "With human gore imbued." The author's grim outlook and horrendous undertones leave the reader with the Heeby-jeebies, and Poe uses this to confront the reader with the truth: people die. Life ends. There is nothing you can do to change that. Angels provide a foil-like contrast to both the human and the Worm- its wholesome, non-murderous nature shows the seraph's perfection, which contrasts sharply with the downfall of man. Poe deftly uses nasty images and comparison to show just how vulnerable man is, and then preys on the reader's vulnerability by forcing them to accept death. Truly, a masterpiece.
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