An Enigma
Reading Comprehension Activity

Author: Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) loved a good riddle poem, and this is one of his from 1848. There is a woman’s name hidden in the text. Students will read the poem and decipher the name, as well as try their hand with their own “enigma.”

Topic(s): Humor, Realistic Fiction. Skill(s): Summary, Rhythm & Rhyme. Genre(s): Poetry

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Edgar Allan Poe wrote several poems that contained a secret. An Enigma is one of those poems. Enigma means puzzle or mystery. There is a woman’s name hidden in the text. To find her name, use the first letter of the first line, the second letter of the second line, the third letter of the third line, and so on.

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 lie concealed within’t.

Comprehension Questions

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