THE worm, the rich worm, has a noble domain
In the field that is stored with its millions of slain ;
The charnel-grounds widen, to me they belong,
With the vaults of the sepulchre, sculptured and strong.
The tower of ages in fragments is laid,
Moss grows on the stones, and I lurk in its shade ;
And the hand of the giant and heart of the brave
Must turn weak and submit to the worm and the grave.
Daughters of earth, if I happen to meet
Your bloom-plucking fingers and sod-treading feet
Oh! turn not away with the shriek of disgust
From the thing you must mate with in darkness and dust.
Your eyes may be flashing in pleasure and pride,
‘Neath the crown of a Queen or the wreath of a bride ;
Your lips may be fresh and your cheeks may be fair
Let a few years pass over, and I shall be there.
Cities of splendour, where palace and gate,
Where the marble of strength and the purple of state ;
Where the mart and arena, the olive and vine,
Once flourished in glory ; oh! are ye not mine?
Go look for famed Carthage, and I shall be found
In the desolate ruin and weed-covered mound ;
And the slime of my trailing discovers my home,
‘Mid the pillars of Tyre and the temples of Rome.
I am sacredly sheltered and daintily fed
Where the velvet bedecks, and the white lawn is spread ;
I may feast undisturbed, I may dwell and carouse
On the sweetest of lips and the smoothest of brows.
The voice of the sexton, the chink of the spade,
Sound merrily under the willow’s dank shade.
They are carnival notes, and I travel with glee
To learn what the churchyard has given to me.
Oh! the worm, the rich worm, has a noble domain,
For where monarchs are voiceless I revel and reign ;
I delve at my ease and regale where I may ;
None dispute with the worm in his will or his way.
The high and the bright for my feasting must fall
Youth, Beauty, and Manhood, I prey on ye all :
The Prince and the peasant, the despot and slave ;
All, all must bow down to the worm and the grave.