Click image to order
Never miss a post
Your email address:*
Please enter all required fields
Correct invalid entries


Stacey Lehman

The Conqueror Worm [poem by Edgar Allen Poe]

image from

Who better to usher in Halloween than Edgar Allan Poe, the master of horror, suspense, and the macabre. Does your lifelong fear of being buried alive originate with Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado”? Do you ever lie awake imagining a heart is beating from beneath the floorboards? You have Poe to thank for your nightmares. He brilliantly locates our collective fears and animates them in the short stories and poems written over the course of his brief and mysterious life. His ballad “Annabel Lee” hovers over Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita,” whose protagonist’s first love is “Annabel Leigh.”  (“When I was a child and she was a child, my little Annabel [Leigh] was no nymphet to me”). Then there’s  “The Conqueror Worm,” an appropriately creepy poem that comes to us from beyond the grave. Poe describes a theater performance; the actors are “mimes,” the hero is a large worm that eats the actors. The curtain falls. Boo!

The Conqueror Worm

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.
        -- Edgar Allan Poe

(Ed note: The poster, above, is from the final of three films by British director Michael Reeves before his untimely death from a barbiturate overdose at age 25. Have you seen it? -- sdl)

August 31, 2023

July 25, 2023

May 01, 2023

April 19, 2023

March 22, 2023

March 03, 2023

February 15, 2023

January 27, 2023

October 05, 2022

August 27, 2022

August 18, 2022

August 16, 2022

August 07, 2022

May 02, 2022

February 11, 2022

January 28, 2022

January 17, 2022

December 31, 2021

December 21, 2021

November 25, 2021

click image to order your copy
That Ship Has Sailed
Click image to order
BAP ad
"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


  • StatCounter