Sunday’s Sermon: a riddle.


The following poem was published on February 2, 1833, in the Baltimore Saturday Visiter. It contains descriptions and clues of 11 famous literary figures. The poem was only attributed to “P.” However, 20th century literature professor Thomas Ollive Mabbott credits Edgar Allan Poe with writing the poem. Mabbott also managed to identify all 11 literary figures hidden in the verse.




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.

[Some of the literary figures in Poe’s poem “Enigma” are much more obvious than others, partially due to the relevance that these writers have maintained in the 21st century. Some are from the ancient world, and some are Poe’s contemporaries. Many of the storytellers that Poe identifies had a knack for penning speculative poems—tales of dreams and faeries and monsters and gods and the like. In a way, the poem Enigma is Poe’s list of the founders of fantasy, science fiction, and horror.]


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