Thanks be first to God our Lord, who created [the nightingale] by his Word to be his own beloved songstress and of musica a mistress. For our dear Lord she sings her song in praise of him the whole day long; To him I give my melody and thanks in all eternity.
In November 1899 Elgar conceded the hidden Principal Theme to his ‘Enigma’ Variations “…is so well known that it is extraordinary no-one has spotted it.” His choice of titles for the oddly structured Theme – Enigma – is almost certainly an element in that appraisal. Initials for his ‘friends pictured within’ serve as titles for nine out of fourteen of the Variations. Titles, like names, may be represented by initials. For instance, OM stands for one of Elgar’s honors – the Order of Merit. This raises the prospect that the peculiar title for the opening Theme – Enigma - may hold the initials for Elgar’s hidden melody. Original research shows the covert Principal Theme to the Enigma Variations is Martin Luther’s hymn A Mighty Fortress is our God. Is it conceivable to make some connection between the letters in Enigma and the initials A.M.F.I.O.G.?
The answer is yes.
Four letters from Enigma are exact matches with A.M.F.I.O.G., and it is extraordinary they are clustered together (Enigma). Although the first two letters (e and n) do not match the remaining initials (f and o), it is remarkably coincidental both immediately precede the correct letter in the alphabet. Each unmatched letter is just one small step away in the alphabetical sequence – e comes before f, and n before o. In summary, Enigma has four letters from A.M.F.I.O.G, or 66.66% of the initials for the unstated Principal Theme, with the remaining two (e and n) alphabetically contiguous with the correct initials (f and o).
There are some interesting numerological parallels within the Variations relating to the numbers 6 and 24. There are two unmatched and four matching initials between Enigma and A.M.F.I.O.G. The German title Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott consists of 24 letters. The opening six measures of the Enigma Theme have 24 melody notes. Two of the four sides of Elgar’s 6 x 6 box cipher form the basis of the cipher key. Elgar’s music box cipher is based on the Polybius square, the original version of which encoded the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet in use during that era. Four of six letters from Enigma match those in A.M.F.I.O.G., yielding a matching percentage of 66.66%. The sum of four sixes is 24. There are six 6-letter titles in the Variations (Enigma, Ysobel, Troyte, Nimrod, Eduard, and Finale), and the opus number is 36, the product of 6 x 6. The music box cipher is a 6 x 6 configuration, and within in are 15 plain text solution letters. There are fifteen movements in the Variations, and the number 15 is reducible to 6, i.e., 1 + 5. Nine of the fourteen variations have initials for subtitles, and 6 is 9 upside down. The ninth Variation – Nimrod – has a six-letter title. Clearly, Elgar wished to draw attention to the number six. Even the Roman numerals for his variation (XIV) may be interpreted as a mirror image of SIX when V is replaced by 5 (XI5).
There is an element of Elgar’s wordplay involving the title Enigma. The first three letters – eni – may be reorganized to spell ein, the first word in the German title Ein feste Burg. The literal translation of ein (a) is conveniently furnished by the last letter in Enigma. Concerning the four matching letters (a, i, m and g) between Enigma and the hidden Theme’s initials, these may be reshuffled to spell gaim, the phonetic equivalent of game. When the remaining two letters from enigma (e and n) are added to gaim, the combination forms engaim, a phonetic approximation of endgame. In Elgar's era the term endgame was commonly used to describe the concluding sequence of moves in a game, specifically a game of chess. This association is revealing because a chessboard is indistinguishable from a checkerboard, and Elgar employs a checkerboard cipher to encrypt his dark saying.
A Polybius square is also known as a Polybius checkerboard because it resembles a checkerboard.
|A 6 x 6 Polybius Square|
The location of chess pieces is indicated by a special notation combining column letters with row numbers. In a similar fashion, musical notes are identified by letter or interval number.
Like chess notation, Elgar encodes plain text solution letters in his music box cipher table using melody and bass note pairs. This ingenious music box cipher is a variant of the Polybius square with bass notes designating rows, and melody notes the columns. For example, the bass/melody note combination A/C produces the plain text solution u.
Around the year 1927, Elgar encoded the 14-letter phrase A-V-E-R-Y-O-L-D-C-Y-P-H-E-R in one of his exercise books using symbols originally devised in 1897 for his Dorabella Cipher. The number 14 is tantalizing because there are 14 numbered variations in the Enigma Variations. The Polybius square is emphatically a very old cipher, one Elgar studied carefully in an 1896 issue of The Pall Mall Gazette. That popular magazine ran a series of articles in 1896 called Secrets in Cipher, and the fourth and final installment featured an allegedly unbreakable box cipher by John Holt Schooling.
An example of a checkerboard cipher is shown on the lower left corner of page 615.
Elgar retained that issue of The Pall Mall Gazette in his personal library, and it is now in possession of the Elgar Birthplace Museum. He successfully decoded John Holt Schooling's baffling box cipher, a feat important enough to merit mention almost a decade later in his first biography released in 1905. In retrospect, it appears Elgar retained the 1896 cipher article and made specific mention of it in his 1905 biography to hint at the nature of his music box cipher. There is a numerological connection between the cipher article and the Enigma Variations. The fourth installment of Secrets in Cipher appears in Vol. XIII – No. 36 of The Pall Mall Gazette. It is remarkable that the Opus number for the Enigma Variations is also 36. To learn more about the secrets of the Enigma Variations, read my eBook Elgar’s Enigmas Exposed.