decade: 1850

A Valentine (1850)

For her this rhyme is penned, whose luminous eyes,
   Brightly expressive as the twins of Lœda,
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.


Twins of Lœda: In Greek mythology, Castor and Pollux were twins born of Leda and fathered by Zeus, who disguised himself as a swan and seduced her. The twins are also the two brightest stars in Gemini constellation.

Gordian Knot: A legend where Alexander the Great tried to untie a complicated knot and when he couldn’t solve the puzzle, sliced it in half with his sword. 

Mendez Ferdinando: Fernão Mendes Pinto was a Portuguese explorer born in 1509. The stories he wrote of his life were so unusual and exaggerated that they were not believed. 


   H.F. Gütter & Söhne guitar, 1800-1850. It belonged to Eliza Hanson (1810-1895), a spiritualist medium. According to her family, the spirits commanded the guitar be purchased for her.