Sunday, October 17, 2010

Frances Sargent Osgood - 1811-1850

Mount Auburn Cemetery
A lyre plus a laurel wreath tops the gravestone of this poetess.  Someone at last Monday's Dead Poets Society gathering said that the lyre originally had five strings but that with each death in the family one string was removed.  I don't know ... five strings ... the poet and her husband had but two daughters ... whose death called for the removal of the fifth? ... and presuming one member had already died before the  marker was created ... well ... there's no telling ... I don't know ... perhaps I misunderstood or misheard.

Some in her circle believed that during a time of estrangement from her husband she struck up an affair with Edgar Allan Poe.  Rob Velella, whom I mentioned in Monday's post, who is most knowledgeable about Poe, thinks there was not an affair, but, rather, something like a doting friendship.  In Poe's poem "A Valentine" Frances Sargent Osgood's name is secreted; find it by taking letter one from line one, letter two from line two ... et etera.

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.

Frances Sargent Osgood

1 comment:

  1. The Osgoods had three daughters--that explains the five "strings."

    I suppose it's a minor point, but there is absolutely no contemporary evidence that she and her husband were ever estranged--that's a myth that only arose in the mid-20th century.

    An odd little note about that acrostic Valentine--the earliest known manuscript copy of the poem is in what appears to be the handwriting of Virginia Poe. If that is the case, I'd love to know the story behind that one.