Edgar Allan Poe

(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849 / Boston)

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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.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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  • Nancy Oyula (6/25/2014 8:37:00 AM)

    The poem in itself is an enigma. Took me a moment before I got it, but this being Poe's work it had to be written this way. Lovely (Report) Reply

  • * Sunprincess * (3/15/2014 8:33:00 AM)

    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-
    ......great lines...enjoyed immensely.. (Report) Reply

  • Cambridge Keenan (7/14/2013 10:51:00 PM)

    nothing much has changed from Poe's time til today...everyone still seeks meaning somewhere or another...really who can judge their answers... (Report) Reply

  • Aradia Megido (4/27/2013 3:13:00 PM)

    i think i sort of understand this poem

    it's like he's saying

    how in many poems

    things sound clever and witty and meaningful

    but many of them are as nonsensical as this one

    they appear to be meaningful

    but if you look hard enough you can see right through them

    like an enigma

    which is

    the title

    yeah (Report) Reply

  • Carlos Echeverria (10/26/2012 10:54:00 AM)

    DEAR NAMES HE CONCEALED WITHIN IT...Poe is boasting of his talent(and ensuing immortality (fame)) through parody. (Report) Reply

  • Michael Webster (1/19/2010 10:46:00 AM)

    'how dare to 'appreciate' poet like poe who was once a drunkard poet? '

    Hmm... no, you still don't make sense. (Report) Reply

  • Herman Chiu (10/26/2009 7:24:00 PM)

    Interesting enigma - it has a good point considering the writing of many pretentious authors, along with the hidden message Mr. Ahearn pointed out (thank you; I would not have seen that) . I will admit to not fully understanding his point here, and will therefore not give a rating. However, I would like to stress that Poe was not one for writing any idea directly (as is the way with most poets) , let alone an enigma. Laziness to pursue further meaning in any piece of work is no basis to accuse a cleverly written piece of being too abstract or pointless. As long as the writing pertains logically to the central idea, and it does not have inappropriate references, there is nothing 'killed' here - only an unappreciated style, fitted around the rigid structure of a sonnet. (Report) Reply

  • Michael Harmon (10/26/2009 4:27:00 PM)

    Are you intending your last two sentences to be insults aimed indirectly, but personally, at me, Mr. Ahearn? Or did you intend them to be direct, and therefore frontal, assaults? (Report) Reply

  • Michael Harmon (10/26/2009 1:58:00 PM)

    No one questions the meaning of the title.
    Perhaps, the perplexing part is why Poe thought anyone but him (and his dedicatee, Sarah Anna Lewis) would have any esthetic interest in figuring out the 'enigma'. Once figured out, what is the insight, truth, beauty, or point of the poem which lends itself to a rereading, which most good poems, by the very nature of their being good, entice us to do?

    As I said, in poetry, cleverness kills. And, I believe, the word is 'critics'. (Report) Reply

  • Michael Harmon (10/26/2009 9:30:00 AM)

    A fine storyteller (especially for younger teens) . An interesting novelist. Aside from a few poems, not the greatest poet. In poetry, cleverness kills. I agree with Kevin. (Report) Reply

  • Guybrush Threepwood (10/26/2009 8:49:00 AM)

    Isn't it funny how the concerns intelligent men had concerning art and society way back in the day are often the exact concerns we have today? Goes to show how good intelligent men are at changing things they don't like in society and art-or maybe that's just writers. (Report) Reply

  • Kevin Straw (10/26/2009 6:38:00 AM)

    This poem needs about a dozen footnotes to be comprehensible. It sounds clever, and is well-written, but do I want to pursue its meaning further? No! (Report) Reply

  • Ramesh T A (10/26/2009 1:46:00 AM)

    Yes, truly Poe says the present trend in poetry writing in the past itself! Only trash, trivial and nonsense are taking a large portion of poetry making it impossible to say even an half profound idea ever! Indeed it is an enigma now! (Report) Reply

  • Almedia Knight-Oliver (9/27/2009 11:45:00 AM)

    I love to read Poe's work but, this poem is ity's title: 'An Enigma'in that its inexplicable. 'Seldom we find, ' says Solomon Don Dunce, ' Half an ides in the profondest sonnet says it all... I'll just leave it as that. (Report) Reply

  • Frank James Ryan Jr...fjr (10/26/2008 12:15:00 AM)

    Poe was a Master of cryptic-code.....undelying messages, tale-telling, a many poetic heart....Acrostical diagramming names, places, incuding his own home address, in Boston, Mass, is one of many facets that define E.A. Poe, as arguably the most talented literary mind, of anytime.

    fjr (Report) Reply

Read all 26 comments »

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