Poe’s Puzzle


Photo of Edgar Allan Poe, circa 1849.

American poet and storyteller Edgar Allan Poe, is probably best-known for “The Raven”. “The Raven” of course has a dark theme to it, as many of Poe’s poems and stories did.

However, it was not always doom and gloom for this prolific Bostonian. He later moved to Baltimore, Maryland and is currently buried there. (This is how the NFL team, the Baltimore Ravens, got their name by the way). He also wrote love sonnets, and others similar to the one that I will talk about here. 

In it’s first publication, it had the title “To Her Whose Name Is Written Below”. It is now known by the title “A Valentine”, and it is written by Poe, to another poet, who is a woman. The poem itself is a riddle, and the name of the poet that Poe is addressing this work to, is hidden within the verses. I will explain how to decipher the name, but first here is the text of the poem:

A Valentine

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.

How to figure out the name of the other poet: 

This poem is twenty lines long. You take the first letter of the first line (For), the second letter of the second line (BRightly), the third letter of the third line (ShAll), and so on, all the way until the last line.   

Once you have done this, you should come up with the name of a female contemporary of Poe’s, that he often exchanged love poems with. Her name is three words long.

I will put the answer on this blog, though all the way at the bottom. Sure, you can just scroll down and read her name, or you could just as easily Google the answer. I don’t blame you for this, if you choose to do either of those; for to figure out the name will take some time. However, if like me, you enjoy a good riddle every now and then, you just may want to take the time, and attempt to decode it on your own first.

















































Frances Sargent Osgood in an 1848 anthology.

Frances Sargent Osgood

She was an American poet, nicknamed “Fanny”. Frances was born on June 18, 1811 in Boston, Massachusetts, to Joseph Locke and Mary Ingersoll Foster. She was married to Samuel Stillman Osgood, and they had two daughters. Her exchange of romantic poems with Poe was widely known, and though approved of by Poe’s wife and Osgood’s husband, it was quite criticized by others; although nothing indicates that there was ever a romantic relationship between Poe and Osgood. She died on May 12, 1850 of tuberculosis in New York, and is buried in her parents’ lot at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.