Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “An Enigma” (Text-04), The Works of the Late Edgar Allan PoeVol II: Poems & Miscellanies (1850), 2:26


[page 26, continued:]



“SELDOM we find,” says Solomon Don Dunce,

“Half an idea in the profoundest sonnet.

Through all the flimsy things we see at once

As easily as through a Naples bonnet —

Trash of all trash! — how can a lady don it?

Yet heavier far than your Petrarchan stuff —

Owl-downy nonsense that the faintest puff

Twirls into trunk-paper the while you con it.”

And, veritably, Sol is right enough.

The general tuckermanities are arrant

Bubbles — ephemeral and so transparent —

But this is, now, — you may depend upon it —

Stable, opaque, immortal — all by dint

Of the dear names that lie concealed within ’t.



Though published two years after it appeared in the Union Magazine of Literature and Art (March, 1848), this version likely is taken from the original manuscript. Griswold knew Mrs. Lewis quite well and as such almost certainly had access it.

The hidden name in this poem is that of Sarah Anna Lewis. It is spelled with one letter on each line, the first letter of the first line “S”, the second letter of the second line “a”, the third letter of the third line “r”, etc. 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:





Trashofalltrashhowcan aladydonit






Bubblesephemeralandso transparent




The term “tuckermanities” refers to Henry Theodore Tuckerman (1813-1871), who wrote light sonnets for the Democratic Review in 1845. In earlier version, the only version printed during Poe’s lifetime, “tuckermanities” was given as “Petrarchanities.” Although there is no definitive proof, the change is presumed to be Poe’s own, perhaps made in a manuscript which was available to Griswold. Poe had long disliked Tuckerman, whom he called “the king of the Quietists.”


[S:1 - WORKS, 1850] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - An Enigma (Text-04)