An Enigma

"Seldom we find," says Solomon Don Dunce,
"Half an idea in the profoundest sonnet.
Through all the flimsy things we see at once
As easily as through a Naples bonnet-
Trash of all trash!- how can a lady don it?
Yet heavier far than your Petrarchan stuff-
Owl-downy nonsense that the faintest puff
Twirls into trunk-paper the while you con it."
And, veritably, Sol is right enough.
The general tuckermanities are arrant
Bubbles- ephemeral and so transparent-
But this is, now- you may depend upon it-
Stable, opaque, immortal- all by dint
Of the dear names that he concealed within 't.

by Edgar Allan Poe

Comments (32)

Edgar Allan Poe built his own pedestal to set himself among the best...
Stable, opaque, immortal- all by dint Of the dear names that he concealed within 't. Nice poem, thanks
I remember this poem as the springboard for Lolita. It has a most haunting melody and Poe's incessant feelings about doom. Tom Billsborough
......most interesting and intriguing....love the title, also ★
OK, I've got the code figured out. The poem is a sonnet with a 'hidden' meaning. A sonnet has fourteen lines. This one is dedicated to Sarah Anna Lewis, a fellow poet who apparently assisted Poe and was special to him. Her name has fourteen letters. The first letter of the first line is the first letter of her name - S; the second letter of the second line is the second letter of her name - a; etc., etc., etc. Don't count spaces or punctuation marks. Thus the dear names that Poe concealed within his sonnet (the 'stable, opaque, immortal' meaning of his poem) are SARAH ANNA LEWIS - a name that he was determined would be immortalized in his poem. His sonnet, by the way, is more or less Petrarchan, but of course Poe is not about to follow anyone else's form exactly. He must give it his own twist; hence, the rhyme scheme instead of the traditional ABBA ABBA CDCDCD is ABAB BCCB CDDB EE. That's Poe for you, and I must admit I like this poem better than the generally much-loved 'Annabel Lee' or even 'The Raven.' At least its rhythms and rhymes don't pounce at you and bounce around; the imagery is quite imaginative (e.g., flimsy as a Naples bonnet): and most important, the overt meaning is expressed in lines that are an apt description of many, many 'sophisticated' poems from the time of Elizabeth I to the time of Elizabeth II: Owl-downy nonsense that the faintest puff Twirls into trunk-paper the while you con it. Finally, notice that it's the Petrarchan (or Italian) sonnet that Poe pokes fun at; even Poe must have realized that Shakespeare's English sonnets were neither flimsy, ephemeral, nor transparent. And even Shakespeare has fun with the imagery and language of Elizabethan sonnets in #130, 'My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun....' But, no, I'm not adding this one to my list of favorite poems - at least, not yet. It has to grow on me first.
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