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.
—Edgar Allan Poe
Enjoy Art Representing “A Valentine” by Edgar Allan Poe
A vintage Valentine’s Day card from the early 20th century
Portrait of Frances Sargent Osgood, to whom the poem is believed to be written. Her name is hidden within the poem.
Listen to Readings of “A Valentine”
Listen to this Musical Interpretation of “A Valentine” by Edgar Allan Poe
About Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) published his first collection of poems, Tamarlane, and Other Poems, in 1827, when he was 18 years old. A tendency to run up debts (including for gambling) kept him in constant state of reinvention – college student, poet, short story writer, soldier/officer school, literary journal editor and critic.
The Poe who arises from Symons’ hand (his biographer in The Telltale Heart: The Life and Works of Edgar Allan Poe) is a man who first and foremost was determined to put Southern letters on the map, aiming to wrest control from the literary establishment in New York and New England (Poe aimed some rather pointed arrows at writers like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow). For his own writing, he wanted to be considered a poet. The poems were the important works; the stories were almost after-thoughts, almost dashed off primarily to raise funds. And he always needed money.
His personal life seemed to have stayed a general mess, but he had an enormous impact on both American and world literature. Consider the stories and poems that have been filmed, published, re-published, anthologized, celebrated and widely admired for more than 150 years: “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “Fall of the House of Usher,” The Raven, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Annabel Lee, “The Bells,” “Ulalame,” “To Helen.”
We associate Edgar Allan Poe with 19th century gothic. His stories are full of mystery, passion, horror, violence, death, and the supernatural. And yet his poems, especially “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee,” made him famous in pre-Civil War America and established his literary reputation.
Questions and mystery surrounded Poe’s own life and death, and continue even today – we may never know who left three roses and a bottle of cognac on his grave in Baltimore for decades until 2011 (alas, the “Poe Toaster” disappeared or died, to be seen nevermore).
You can read more about Poe’s biography in the articles Poets and Poems: Meeting Edgar Allan Poe and Forgotten Classics, The Telltale Heart by Julian Symons by Glynn Young, from which this biography was compiled.
I hope you enjoyed A Valentine by Edgar Allan Poe!