Srsly, everyone gets in on the acrostic act. Just digging for these is kind of an experience. I really thought that no one did acrostic but elementary school students. I now have to amend that to “Elementary school students …and Victorians.” This poem was written strictly as a teasing game for a cousin of Poe’s in 1829 (one Elizabeth Rebecca Herring, 1815-1889). ; he never intended for this to be part of his serious oeuvre. It was published posthumously, and he is perhaps rolling in his grave.
Elizabeth it is in vain you say
‘Love not’ — thou sayest it in so sweet a way:
In vain those words from thee or L.E.L.
Zantippe’s talents had enforced so well:
Ah! if that language from thy heart arise,
Breath it less gently forth — and veil thine eyes.
Endymion, recollect, when Luna tried
To cure his love — was cured of all beside —
His follie — pride — and passion — for he died.
— ‘An Acrostic’, by Edgar Allan Poe
Asking yourself who the heck “Zantippe” is? Yeah, me too. Xanthippe was Socrates’ wife, and you know how the Victorians were with spelling (er, inventive? changeable? whimsical?) so Poe took some license. Not gonna lie; ‘z’ is hard. L.E.L., according to the Baltimore Poe Society, may be Letitia Elizabeth Landon, an English poet known for signing her work with those initials. Lovelorn Endyimon is a common theme in Victorian poetry; he was a figure of Greek mythology; Luna, is the moon, though her Greek variant is Selene.