“A Valentine” — Edgar Allan Poe’s Poetic Puzzle

Antique Valentine's Day Card Source: Wikipedia

Antique Valentine’s Day Card
Source: Wikipedia

For her this rhyme is penned, whose luminous eyes,
Brightly expressive as the twins of Leda,
Shall find her own sweet name, that nestling lies
Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.
Search narrowly the lines!- they hold a treasure
Divine- a talisman- an amulet
That must be worn at heart. Search well the measure-
The words- the syllables! Do not forget
The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor
And yet there is in this no Gordian knot
Which one might not undo without a sabre,
If one could merely comprehend the plot.
Enwritten upon the leaf where now are peering
Eyes scintillating soul, there lie perdus
Three eloquent words oft uttered in the hearing
Of poets, by poets- as the name is a poet’s, too,
Its letters, although naturally lying
Like the knight Pinto- Mendez Ferdinando-
Still form a synonym for Truth- Cease trying!
You will not read the riddle, though you do the best you can do.

So before you continue, I have to warn you that I do provide the answer to the riddle hidden in this poem. Poe wrote this poem for someone and the name of the person to whom it was written is hidden within the text. I will go through the clues first before revealing the solution to the puzzle.

Poe begins by telling us that we “Shall find her own sweet name, that nestling lies/Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.” So we know that we are searching for a woman’s name and that it is hidden within the text. Next, he advises us to “Search narrowly the lines!” This means that the name is spread across multiple lines. It is worth noting that there are 20 lines in this poem (hint… hint).

Poe then tells us to search carefully, focusing on measure, words, and syllables.

Search well the measure-
The words- the syllables! Do not forget
The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor

Finally, he lets us know that the name is in three parts (first, middle, last) and that the woman to whom the poem is addressed is also a poet.

Three eloquent words oft uttered in the hearing
Of poets, by poets- as the name is a poet’s, too,

OK, now I will reveal the answer. The person for whom Poe wrote this poem is Frances Sargent Osgood. She was born and raised in Massachusetts and published a significant amount of poetry throughout her lifetime.

So here is how you find her name hidden in the poem: take the first letter from the first line, the second letter from the second line, the third letter from the third line, and continue until you get to the 20th letter of the 20th line, place them all together, and it spells out her name. Clever!

Hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!!

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16 Comments

Filed under Literature

16 responses to ““A Valentine” — Edgar Allan Poe’s Poetic Puzzle

  1. “Which one might not undo without a sabre”

    Umm, don’t refrain from putting that in your not-pipe and not smoking it.

  2. That is very clever. Thanks Jeff.

  3. Alex Hurst

    I remember reading this one a couple of years ago for my Tackling Poe series. It was all great fun. 🙂 I really love his poetry.

  4. Excellent analysis dear Jeff…
    I love these verses very much:
    “The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor
    And yet there is in this no Gordian knot
    Which one might not undo without a sabre,
    If one could merely comprehend the plot”~
    I am looking forward to your posts on Homer’s “Odyssey”!…
    All the best to you, Aquileana 😀

    • Hi Aquileana! I hope you are doing well.

      Thanks for your comment! I am also looking forward to reading the Odyssey again. I am currently reading several other books, so I want to finish at least two of them before diving into Homer 🙂

      Lots of warm wishes!!

      Jeff

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