January 25, 2008

Poetry Friday - Edgar Allan Poe

A cipher - a code - secret writing - played an extremely important part in The Case of The Missing Marquess: An Enola Holmes Mystery. One of my favorite poets, Edgar Allan Poe, was a celebrated cryptographist. He is considered one of the first to write a detective story which in a sense is breaking the code of mystery surrounding a crime - solving the question of who committed it; so it is perhaps natural that he contributed to the popularity of cryptography during his lifetime. Poe’s short story “The Gold Bug” published in 1843 relates the story of a man who finds buried treasure by solving a secret code or cipher. His "Valentine" is not only contains a cipher but much word play.

Can you solve the mystery of

"A Valentine"
For her this rhyme is penned, whose luminous eyes,
brightly expressive as the twins of Loeda,
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 you labor!
And yet there is in this no Gordian knot
Which one might not undo without a saber,
If one could merely comprehend the plot.
Enwritten upon the leaf where now are peering
Eyes scintillating soul, there lie perdus
Three eloquent word 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.
from Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Poems
(Library of Classic Poets)

Note from the text:
[To translate the address, 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. The name will thus appear.]

If you solved the cipher, you might enjoy knowing that the address was an American (1811-1850) poet and one of the most popular women writers of her day who exchanged romantic poems with Poe.

In my book . . .
Ah - Sweet mystery! Yet, the untangled mystery hints at more mystery. It sent me searching for information about Osgood. It seems that Poe’s young wife approved of their flirtatious poetry exchange and was even friends with Osgood. A valentine can be simply a tribute or warm praise through words. So, to Poe, whose birthday was January 19th, I send this valentine!