Edgar Allan Poe
In late January of 1846 the death of Virginia Poe was but a year away (January 30, 1847) and Frances Osgood was four months pregnant with Fanny Fay. As Virginia’s health continued its downward spiral, one can imagine the rumors “A Valentine” brought when recited at the home of Anne Lynch on Feb 14, 1846. The poem was written by Edgar Allan Poe to Francis Osgood. Virtually undetectable at its reading, the poem is an acrostic that spells the full name of Frances Sargent Osgood. At its recitation, all in attendance wondered to whom it was addressed. In this original, Poe misspelled her middle name as “Sergent.”
(Sartain’s Union Magazine, February 15, 1846)
For her these lines are penned, whose luminous eyes,
Brightly expressive as the stars of Leda,
Shall find her own sweet name that, nestling, lies
Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.
Search narrowly these words, which hold a treasure
Divine—a talisman, an amulet
That must be worn at heart. Search well the measure—
The words—the letters themselves. Do not forget
The smallest 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.
Upon the open page on which are peering
Such sweet eyes now, there lies, I say, perdus,
A musical name oft uttered in the hearing
Of poets, by poets—for the name is a poet’s too.
In common sequence set, the letters lying,
Compose a sound delighting all to hear—
Ah, this you’d have no trouble in descrying
Were you not something, of a dunce, my dear—
And now I leave these riddles to their Seer.