Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. John H. Ingram), “A Valentine,” The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, vol. III, 1875, p. 23


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[page 23:]

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 labour!

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.

[To discover the name in this and the following poem, read the first letter of the first line in connection with the second letter of the second line, the third letter of the third line, the fourth of the fourth, and so on to the end.]


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Notes:

In his printing, Ingram renders the relevant letters in bold Gothic type. In the present text, they are simply marked as bold.

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 original version, Poe accidentally mispelled her middle name as “Sergeant.” In the following copy of the text, punctuation and spaces have been removed and the relevant letters marked in red to make the matter clear:

Forherthisrhymeispennedwhoseluminouseyes

BrightlyexpressiveasthetwinsofLaeda

Shallfindherownsweetnamethatnestlinglies

Uponthepageenwrappedfromeveryreader

Searchnarrowlythelinestheyholdatreasure

Divineatalismananamulet

ThatmustbewornatheartSearchwellthemeasure

ThewordsthesyllablesDonotforget

Thetrivialestpointoryoumayloseyourlabour

AndyetthereisinthisnoGordianknot

Whichonemightnotundowithoutasabre

Ifonecouldmerelycomprehendtheplot

Enwrittenupontheleafwherenowarepeering

Eyesscintillatingsoultherelieperdus

Threeeloquentwordsoftutteredinthehearing

Ofpoetsbypoetsasthenameisapoetstoo

Itslettersalthoughnaturallylying

LiketheknightPintoMendezFerdinando

StillformasynonymforTruthCeasetrying

Youwillnotreadtheriddlethoughyoudothebestyoucando

Ingram slightly alters the explantory note, which first appears in the Griswold text.

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[S:0 - JHI, 1875] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - A Poe Bookshelf - A Valentine (J. H. Ingram, 1875)