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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.


Source: The Complete Poems and Stories of Edgar Allan Poe (1946)

Poet Bio

Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and raised in Richmond, Virginia, by a foster family. In his poetry and fiction, Poe explored the dark inner workings of the mind. He is credited with being a forerunner of horror fiction and of the short story as a literary form. After years of depression and alcoholism, Poe died mysteriously at age 40.

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