Riddles of Edgar Allan Poe

By: Justin Zablocki (author, Zablocki Bros. LLC) on October 16th, 2013 12:00 AM.


Riddles of Edgar Allan Poe


Edgar Allan Poe was an American poet, author, and editor. He lived from 1809 to 1849, dying at the young age of 40. He is best known for being a part of the American Romantic Movement. He was also one of the pioneers of short stories and the detective fiction genre. This genre goes hand in hand with riddles, puzzles, and mysteries. Aside from his own writings Poe loved puzzles, ciphers, and really all riddles. He thought of himself as a genius who could solve any kind of puzzle and do it more quickly than anybody else. He received a cipher from one of his friends and put it in the magazine he was editor of saying he would give a free year's subscription "to any person, or rather to the first person who shall read us this riddle." The riddle is given in the image. The key to the cipher is:

But find this out and I give it up.

This riddle was eventually solved by one of Poe's readership, a man named Richard Bolton. Reluctantly Poe posted his solution in a later issue:

In one of those peripapetic circumrotations I obviated a rustic whom I subjected to catchetical interrogation respecting the nosocomical characteristics of the edifice to which I was approximate. With a volubility uncongealed by the frigorific powers of villatic bashfulness, he ejaculated a voluminous replication from the universal tenor of whose contents I deduce the subsequent amalgamation of heterogeneous facts. Without dubiety incipient pretension is apt to terminate in final vulgarity, as parturient mountains have been fabulated to produce muscupular abortions. The institution the subject of my remarks, has not been without cause the theme of the ephemeral columns of quotidian journalism, and enthusiastic encomiations in conversational intercourse.

Another cipher that he is known for comes from one of his short stories "The Gold-Bug." This is one of his original short stories that have been thought of as early detective fiction. It is about a man getting bitten by a gold-colored bug that ultimately leads him on a hunt for buried treasure. Along the way he encounters the following message:


To solve this riddle/cipher you must use a substitution cipher using letter frequencies. Once decoded it reads:

A good glass in the bishop's hostel in the devil's seat
twenty-one degrees and thirteen minutes northeast and by north
main branch seventh limb east side shoot from the left eye of the death's-head
a bee line from the tree through the shot fifty feet out.

Aside from ciphers, Poe included a lot of riddles in his poetry. One of the poems he wrote for a married woman, "A Valentine", is a poem to express his love for her as well as reveal her identity. Here is the poem:

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.

The woman that this riddle is written about is Frances Sargent Osgood. They wrote many romantic poems to each other.

An enigma is a type of riddle and Poe actually wrote a poem called Enigma, although it was signed P.

The noblest name in Allegory's page,
The hand that traced inexorable rage;
A pleasing moralist whose page refined,
Displays the deepest knowledge of the mind;
A tender poet of a foreign tongue,
(Indited in the language that he sung.)
A bard of brilliant but unlicensed page
At once the shame and glory of our age,
The prince of harmony and stirling sense,
The ancient dramatist of eminence,
The bard that paints imagination's powers,
And him whose song revives departed hours,
Once more an ancient tragic bard recall,
In boldness of design surpassing all.
These names when rightly read, a name [[make]] known
Which gathers all their glories in its own.

The answer to this riddle is actually 11 authors:

Line - Author
1 - Spenser
2 - Homer
3-4 - Aristotle
5-6 - Kallimachos
7-8 - Shelley
9 - Alexander Pope.
10 - Euripides
11 - Mark Akenside
12 - Samuel Rogers
13-14 - Euripidies
15-16 - William Shakespeare

Edgar Allan Poe is a great literary mind and one of the most well-known and studied poets ever. He has become more popular with time and has inscribed his name into history. For more information and links about him visit his Wikipedia page.

For some great riddles of your own visit the Kids Riddles section.

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