Thursday, February 14, 2013

Love, Everlasting...


A Valentine

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

The name "Pinto Mendez Ferdinando" (which appears in various versions in various sources) occurs in Edgar Allan Poe's poem "A Valentine" which was written for >Frances Sargent Osgood and which has her name concealed in the poem. The knight is the Portugese traveller Fernao Mendes Pinto (1509-1583) who has earned a reputation as an exaggerator of his travel tales, or, to put it more bluntly, as a liar. The reputation may well be undeserved as Pinto proved a rather astute observor of detail and is today considered rather reliable. In any case, this knight is referred to in Poe's poem with reference to the way Frances Osgood's name "lies" in the poem -- naturally -- that is, in its natural order; it is not scrambled or jumbled. (If you are familiar with the poem you will realize that the name is spaced into each of the twenty lines, beginning with the first letter of the first line, second letter of second line, third letter of third line and so on in natural order.)

The line from Poe's poem is "Its letters, although naturally lying/ Like the knight Pinto- Mendez Ferdinando-/ Still form a synonym for Truth" has a double sense. There is that play on words, the pun on "lying" which marks the name of Pinto but which proves opposite the reputation, Poe insists, of poet Frances Osgood. But there is also that sense of the three word name lying naturally in that its letters are not jumbled.

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