This post is originally published on my blog 

"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.”


This is Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem of love and romance, titled “A Valentine”, which was laced with the mystery- who is his lady love? Through this lyrical poem, Poe challenges his readers to solve the riddle that reveals his secret lover. Turns out that if you take the first letter from the first line, the second letter from the second line, the third letter from the third line, and so on until the end, the name of the woman he was crazy about exists in every line throughout the whole poem- Frances Sargent Osgood. Talk about fancy ways to impress a girl, huh?

But the question is, why didn’t he just write a poem dedicated to “my sweet Frances” like all the other old poets and use this weird roundabout way instead? Well that’s because Frances here, a poet herself, was a married woman (gasp), and this entire affair was a huge secret.

So here’s what bothers me: if debauchery was really this huge deal back in the old days, and keeping this passionate affair a secret was a matter of each other’s life and death for Edgar and his lady, why did he just publish her name in a poem, just like that? I mean, you’d think a person could be more discreet. Was it merely the idea of having your deepest secret out there for the world to see, and yet having them not be able to see it? The adrenaline rush from something like that has gotta be intense.

But then again, human beings have time and again proved to be a race that can’t even see well enough to read what’s right there in front of them, so how were they to possibly decode a truth so covered in fairy tales and flowery words?

Well played, Poe.

Published by Devika Menon