Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “A Valentine” (Text-01), manuscript, February 13, 1846


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Valentine’s Eve. 1846

To — — —

For her these lines are penned, whose luminous eyes,

Bright and expressive as the stars of Leda,

Shall find her own sweet name that, nestling, lies

Upon this page, enwrapped from every reader.

Search narrowly these words, which hold a treasure

Divine — a talisman, an amulet

That must be worn at heart. Search well the measure —

The words — the letters themselves. Do not forget

The smallest 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.

Upon the open page on which are peering

Such sweet eyes now, there lies, I say, perdu,

A musical name oft uttered in the hearing

Of poets, by poets — for <as> the name is a poet’s too.

In common sequence set, the letters lying,

Compose a sound delighting all to hear —

Ah, this you’d have no trouble in descrying

Were you not something, of a dunce, my dear —

And now I leave these riddles to their Seer.

E.A.P.

 


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Notes:

This valentine was written for Frances Sargent Osgood. Mrs. Osgood’s full name is spelled with one letter on each line, the first letter of the first line (“F”), the second letter of the second line (“r”), the third letter of the third line (“a”), etc. In the this version, Poe accidentally misspelled her middle name as “Sergeant,” an error that was not corrected in time for its publication in 1846. Without regard for the cleverness of its construction, one might wonder at the sincerity of a valentine that refers to its intended, even in jest, as “something of a dunce” (second from last line). A photographic facsimile of this poem was printed by Arthur H. Quinn and Richard H. Hart, Edgar Allan Poe: Letters and Documents in the Enoch Pratt Free Library, New York: Scholar’s Facsimiles & Reprints, 1941, facing p. 2.

In the following copy of the text, punctuation and spaces have been removed and the relevant letters marked in red to make the matter of the solution clear:

Forhertheselinesarepennedwhoseluminouseyes

BrightandexpressiveasthestarsofLeda

Shallfindherownsweetnamethat nestlinglies

Uponthispageenwrappedfromeveryreader

Searchnarrowlythesewordswhichholdatreasure

Divineatalismananamulet

Thatmustbewornatheart Searchwellthemeasure

ThewordsthelettersthemselvesDonotforget

Thesmallestpointoryoumayloseyourlabor

Andyetthereisinthisnogordianknot

Whichonemightnotundowithoutasabre

Ifonecouldmerelycomprehendtheplot

Upontheopenpageonwhicharepeering

SuchsweeteyesnowthereliesIsayperdu

Amusicalnameoftutteredinthehearing

Ofpoetsbypoetsforasthenameisapoetstoo

Incommonsequencesettheletterslying

Composeasounddelightingalltohear

Ahthisyoudhavenotroubleindescrying

Wereyounotsomethingofaduncemydear

AndnowIleavetheseriddlestotheirSeer

A few isolated pencilled letters appear at the far right edge of the page for several lines, corresponding to the letter marked above in red for the respective line.

 

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[S:1 - MS, 1846] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - A Valentine [Text-01]