Song of the Worm

Original Text: 
The Poetical Works of Eliza Cook (London: Frederick Warne and Co., [1869]): 181-82. PR 4502 A17 1869 Robarts Library
1THE worm, the rich worm, has a noble domain
2In the field that is stored with its millions of slain;
3The charnel-grounds widen, to me they belong,
4With the vaults of the sepulchre, sculptured and strong.
5The tower of ages in fragments is laid,
6Moss grows on the stones, and I lurk in its shade;
7And the hand of the giant and heart of the brave
8Must turn weak and submit to the worm and the grave.
9Daughters of earth, if I happen to meet
10Your bloom-plucking fingers and sod-treading feet--
11Oh! turn not away with the shriek of disgust
12From the thing you must mate with in darkness and dust.
13Your eyes may be flashing in pleasure and pride,
14'Neath the crown of a Queen or the wreath of a bride;
15Your lips may be fresh and your cheeks may be fair--
16Let a few years pass over, and I shall be there.
17Cities of splendour, where palace and gate,
18Where the marble of strength and the purple of state;
19Where the mart and arena, the olive and vine,
20Once flourished in glory; oh! are ye not mine?
21Go look for famed Carthage, and I shall be found
22In the desolate ruin and weed-covered mound;
23And the slime of my trailing discovers my home,
24'Mid the pillars of Tyre and the temples of Rome.
25I am sacredly sheltered and daintily fed
26Where the velvet bedecks, and the white lawn is spread;
27I may feast undisturbed, I may dwell and carouse
28On the sweetest of lips and the smoothest of brows.
29The voice of the sexton, the chink of the spade,
30Sound merrily under the willow's dank shade.
31They are carnival notes, and I travel with glee
32To learn what the churchyard has given to me.
33Oh! the worm, the rich worm, has a noble domain,
34For where monarchs are voiceless I revel and reign;
35I delve at my ease and regale where I may;
36None dispute with the worm in his will or his way.
37The high and the bright for my feasting must fall--
38Youth, Beauty, and Manhood, I prey on ye all:
39The Prince and the peasant, the despot and slave;
40All, all must bow down to the worm and the grave.
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1996-2000.