“A Valentine” of Edgar Allen Poe – Analysis

December 4, 2009


Edgar Allen Poe

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 poem, “A Valentine” is written by the famous Edgar Allen Poe. This love poem is written for a woman, who is already married. The chosen subject matter, theme and Poe’s writing style have made this poem lengthen its existence until today, and still can maintain its unique and beautiful meaning. This analysis will focus on the deconstruction of this romantic poem, through the subject matter, theme, context, tone and literary devices used.

This is a lyrical poem, written in the form of acrostic. Other than a poem, “A Valentine” is actually a riddle that Poe made to reveal his secret lover. Edgar Allen Poe composed “A Valentine” to express his affection for a woman, but he’s too afraid to directly tell her because she’s already married. The subject matter is about Poe’s challenge for the readers, to solve the riddle within this poem. Through the puzzle that the writer gives out to the reader, he also blends in the implication for his lover’s beauty. Poe’s love for this woman is a secret affair. He can only express it in discreet, through the meaning of this poem, because it is wrongful to be infatuated with a married woman. The theme of this poem is about a woman’s magnificence to a man when he’s falling in love, and the mysteriousness of this secret love they’re having. Poe wrote this poem under his personal context of being in love, in a secret love affair. The historical context of “A Valentine” is in the 1846, so it is evident that the language used is formal. The tone applied for this poem is very romantic, when refer to the woman and stimulating, in terms of the mystery for the reader. The writing purpose of Poe is to stimulate the readers with an interesting puzzle about his lover. The regular rhyme scheme of this poem is abab cdcd, but sometimes the pattern change unexpectedly due to the appearance of an odd line with no rhyme.

The riddle is the dominant feature of this poem, that’s the main factor that makes this poem so ingenious. Not only does it express the romantic words of the writer, Edgar Allen Poe also composed a hidden riddle within “A Valentine”. 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 riddle of this poem will be revealed. The name of the woman who Poe is crazed about exists in every line throughout the whole poem, Frances Sargent Osgood. She was another great poetess who shares her secret affair with Poe through poems.

An array of literary devices is used in “A Valentine”. Simile can be found in the first two lines: “For her this rhyme…twins of Leda”. This comparison illustrates this woman’s gorgeousness, almost as beautiful as a girl named Leda, a character from “Leda and the Swan”. The writer wants to notify the readers that through “Shall find her own sweet name, that nestling lies”, the name of his lover can be found within the huddling lines “lies” of this poem. “A Valentine” contains a lot of metaphors. The line “Search narrowly the lines!- they hold a treasure” has one. This is a hint from the writer for the readers to find his beloved’s name in this poem, implying her name being the treasure. The line “And yet there is in this no Gordian knot” contains another metaphor.  It is used to imply an intractable problem, solved by a bold stroke. So it literally means there is no hard problem in solving a riddle of this poem. Of poets, by poets- as the name is a poet’s, too”. The repetition of the word “poet” gives a hint to the readers that this woman, which is the solution to the riddle, is also a poet. Another simile, merged with personification can be found in “Its letters, although naturally lying. Like the knight Pinto- Mendez Ferdinando” The effect of this skilful combination of literary devices is to give the letters which represents the answer of this riddle more power, as mighty as the knight Pinto. It is also evident to notify that his choice of vocabulary and language style is very impressive throughout the whole poem, Eyes scintillating soul”, “Gordian knot”, “Cease trying”…

This is one of the profound love poems of the great Edgar Allen Poe. It is certainly a masterpiece that can still remain its prolonged existence. Not only is this piece romantic and beautiful in the illustration of Poe’s lover, but it’s also clever in the hidden riddle that the writer challenges the readers. Poe’s purpose is stated very clear through the descriptions: to reveal his secret love with Frances Sargent Osgood. He has used his own unique writing style and many literary devices to transfer perfectly the significance of this love, acrostic poem.


4 Responses to ““A Valentine” of Edgar Allen Poe – Analysis”

  1. I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it
    up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back down the road. Many thanks

  2. cant say said

    Thank you, you helped me with an difficult essay that is due Friday, December 13,2013 but i did not copy or paste

  3. I teach a poetry class and will use some of your ideas. Thank you for sharing! This analysis is great.

  4. charles said

    No. Its about a truth so covered in fairy tales and lies that we will never see the answer to our own survival because we cannot even see well enough to read the instructions. Its not a valentine at all.

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