The Conqueror Worm

The Conqueror Worm

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.

Summary of the Poem, “The Conqueror Worm”

  • Popularity of “The Conqueror Worm”: Edgar Allan Poe, a renowned American poet wrote, “The Conqueror Worm”. It is a famous lyrical poem and was first published in Graham’s Magazine in January 1843. The poem captures the arrival of inescapable death. It also illustrates how our dreams and hopes are eventually devoured when death comes to conquer us.
  • The Conqueror Worm” As a Representative of Death: The poet articulates his feelings about the inevitable death in this poem and presents the symbolic history of mankind in the form of a play. The first stanza acts as exposition, where angels are seated in the theatre to watch the play of hopes and fear, while the second and third stanza marks the rising action. And, with the dramatic entrance of the conqueror worm comes the climax and, the last stanza indicates the falling action. The poem begins when some angles gather around to watch a play, “Man”, in which a group of faceless mimes is flying aimlessly in circles, chasing their phantoms; implying humans in the world are chasing their dreams. But suddenly, a strange, blood like figure appears on the stage and starts eating up the mimes. Thus, the curtains fall, and the play, ‘Man’ ends in tragedy.
  • Major Themes in “The Conqueror Worm”: Death, desires, and mortality are the major themes crafted in the poem. The poet very skilfully divides this poem into five stanzas and shows the struggle of mankind on earth. They spend their life chasing their dreams, but death puts an end on everything, and all their desires vanish at the end of their life.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “The Conqueror Worm”

literary devices are tools that enable the writers to enhance their simple texts with multiple interpretations. Their appropriate use brings richness and uniqueness in the text. Edgar Allan Poe has also used various literary devices in this poem show the arrival of death. The analysis of the literary devices used in this poem has been given below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /o/ in “Mimes, in the form of God on high” and the sounds of /i/ and /ai/ in “It writhes!—it writhes!—with mortal pangs”.
  2. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things with their five senses. For example, “A blood-red thing that writhes from out”; “Mere puppets they, who come and go” and “A crawling shape intrude”.
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /b/ in “An angel throng, bewinged, bedight” and the sound of /s/ in “The scenic solitude”.
  4. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. For example, ‘it writhes’ is repeated in the fourth stanza to show his intense feelings about the worm.

“It writhes!—it writhes!—with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food.”

  1. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought or clause that does not come to an end at a line break instead moves over the next line. For example,

“And seraphs sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued.”

  1. Cacophony: It refers to the usage of several unharmonious or dissonant sounds in a line or passage. Particularly the consonant sounds to reach the desired conclusions. The use of cacophonic words in this poem helps to conjure a negative image in the minds of the readers. For example,

“It writhes!—it writhes!—with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food.”

  1. Allusion: Allusion is a belief and an indirect reference of a person, place, thing, or idea of a historical, cultural, political, or literary significance. For example, “Mimes, in the form of God on high” that alludes to the Judeo-Christian tale of Genesis, which states that God created man in his own image.
  2. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. ‘The blood’ and ‘worm’ symbolizes death, the mimes are the symbols of men and “the Phantom” symbolizes the goals humans work hard to achieve.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “The Conqueror Worm”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are five stanzas in this poem each comprises of eight lines.
  2. Octave: An octave is eight-lined stanzas. Here each stanza is an octave.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: The rhyme scheme followed by the entire poem is ABABCBCB.
  4. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. The examples of end rhymes are, “all/pall”, “pangs/fangs” and “wings/things.”

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below can be used to describe any monster or mysterious figure that becomes the reason for destruction. You may also use similar lines to narrate a horror story about ghosts, zombies, or vampires.

“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.”