Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Valentine

 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

Throughout his poem, “A Valentine”, Edgar Allan Poe conveys his advice to his lover about life and its hidden meanings by comparing it to poetry and writing. In the third line he tells her that she “shall find her own sweet name”, or her own meaning and purpose in life. Names are not only used for simple identification and to minimize confusion; they also represent a being and their actual identity. It comes to be “who they are” and defines their physical and mental being. So he words the line carefully to place more than one meaning. The second reason for that particular line about her “own sweet name” might also be hiding a clue because he goes on to say that it “lies / Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.” Edgar Allan Poe may have hidden his lover’s name within the lines of this poem, hiding it from the rest of the readers. The word “page” also carries a second meaning. He might be using the pages of a book as a metaphor for the blank canvas of her life that she will fill with her own meaning. Her true purpose would then be “enwrapped from every reader”, because it is impossible for a person to truly understand the intentions of the writer. “Search well the measure- / the words- the syllables!” refer not only to the structure of his poem, but to the small clues that life leaves as well. He tells her that there is “no Gordian knot/ which one might not undo without a saber, /if one could merely comprehend the plot.” He alludes to the era of Alexander the Great when he speaks of the Gordian knot. The Gordian knot is often a metaphor for a unsolvable problem. Again, he compares life to a work of writing, explaining to “his valentine” that there is no problem that cannot be solved if only you can understand the plot. The plot, of course, refers to the “greater plan” or fate. However the poem takes a sudden twist of darkness in line 13, “Eyes scintillating soul, there lie perdus” Perdus can refer to several things. Originally a French term, “perdu” is a soldier assigned to an extremely hazardous duty ( The second meaning is hidden, concealed, or obscured. ( In this context, Poe is probably using the first definition. “the leaf” in line 12 can be  an allusion to the Tree of Knowledge. We seek out the meaning of life but cannot comprehend what is written on the leaf.  The “three eloquent words oft uttered in the hearing” can be referencing the words, “I love you” since poets are frequently known as hopeless romantics. As for “as the name is a poet’s, too,” Poe is telling her that he cares for her so much that his name, which consequently is 3 “words” long, has become “I love you”. But “I love you”, like “the knight Pinto-Mendez Ferdinando” or Fernando Mendez Pinto, who was a Portuguese explorer and writer known to have recorded his adventures with many lies in between that no one is sure how truthful his tales are, the phrase is naturally used for lying. However his feelings are genuine, they “form a synonym for Truth”, his truth. 

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