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Riddle Poems

Table of Contents

  1. The Benefactor by Hannah Flagg Gould
  2. I have not told my garden yet by Emily Dickinson
  3. The Snow by Emily Dickinson
  4. Storm by Emily Dickinson
  5. The Wind by Emily Dickinson
  6. The Secret by Emily Dickinson
  7. Friendship by William Francis Barnard
  8. Opportunity by John James Ingales
  9. Pain by Anonymous
  10. The Fog by Anonymous
  11. Nike by Bliss Carman
  12. The Song-Sparrow by Henry Van Dyke
  13. Song of the School Bell by John Edward Everett
  14. Bread by John B. Tabb
  15. A Riddle by Abbie Farwell Brown
  16. Song of the Bubbles by Anonymous
  17. A Valentine by Edgar Allan Poe
  18. The Cloud by Percy Bysshe Shelley

  1. The Benefactor

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    Unsullied by time, and undimmed by a tear,
    But fresh, on the wing of the new-born year,
    I come, a pure and a holy thing;
    And to all, who receive me, some gift I bring.

    For childhood, amused with its stories and toys,
    I've a lasting supply of those innocent joys;
    And a breastplate of truth, that I'll place o'er its heart,
    To keep it unspotted from falsehood and art.

    I give to the youth, as his hopes are full-blown,
    Those hopes undeceived till their fruits are full-grown:
    In the landscape of life, that before him is spread,
    I will leave not a thorn, where I know he must tread.

    I grant to the young and the beautiful maid
    A form ne'er to wither—a cheek ne'er to fade—
    A heart not to grieve that the lip oft may smile,
    And treachery lurk in the bosom the while!

    I give to the aged, to whom life must seem,
    As 't is past in review, like a short, busy dream,
    The peace undisturbed which may spring from the trust,
    That, beyond time and earth, they shall live with the just.

    For you, who are treading the gay, giddy round
    Of fashion and folly, for you I have found
    A far nobler work for your life's fleeting day;
    And I give to you wisdom to shine on your way.

    To the prisoner, immured in the dark, starless night
    Of a dungeon, I give heaven's pure air and light;
    And the power, though his hands may be crimson with guilt,
    To wash themselves white from the blood they have spilt.

    I give to the exile, who's destined to roam
    From parent, from brother and sister and home,
    A welcome from him, who, those treasures possessing,
    Shall find himself blest in bestowing the blessing.

    For the poor I've a shelter from cold and from storm;
    I've bread for his mouth, and a garb for his form;
    But chiefly, a spirit to soar from the dust
    To a treasure on high, safe from moth and from rust.

    To the rich, for their deeds, as a final reward,
    I will leave but the look and the word of their Lord:
    May they hear, with a smile, from their Master divine,
    "Ye have done unto me what ye did unto mine!"

    Thus, for high and for low, for the young and the old,
    For the wise and the foolish I've treasures untold;
    And WISH is my name—but ye never must hear
    What bosom I sprang from to hail the NEW YEAR!

  2. I have not told my garden yet

    by Emily Dickinson

    I have not told my garden yet,
    Lest that should conquer me;
    I have not quite the strength now
    To break it to the bee.

    I will not name it in the street,
    For shops would stare, that I,
    So shy, so very ignorant,
    Should have the face to die.

    The hillsides must not know it,
    Where I have rambled so,
    Nor tell the loving forests
    The day that I shall go,

    Nor lisp it at the table,
    Nor heedless by the way
    Hint that within the riddle
    One will walk to-day!

  3. The Snow

    by Emily Dickinson

    It sifts from leaden sieves,
    It powders all the wood,
    It fills with alabaster wool
    The wrinkles of the road.

    It makes an even face
    Of mountain and of plain, —
    Unbroken forehead from the east
    Unto the east again.

    It reaches to the fence,
    It wraps it, rail by rail,
    Till it is lost in fleeces;
    It flings a crystal veil

    On stump and stack and stem, —
    The summer's empty room,
    Acres of seams where harvests were,
    Recordless, but for them.

    It ruffles wrists of posts,
    As ankles of a queen, —
    Then stills its artisans like ghosts,
    Denying they have been.

  4. Storm

    by Emily Dickinson

    It sounded as if the streets were running,
    And then the streets stood still.
    Eclipse was all we could see at the window,
    And awe was all we could feel.

    By and by the boldest stole out of his covert,
    To see if time was there.
    Nature was in her beryl apron,
    Mixing fresher air.

  5. The Wind

    by Emily Dickinson

    It's like the light, —
    A fashionless delight
    It's like the bee, —
    A dateless melody.

    It's like the woods,
    Private like breeze,
    Phraseless, yet it stirs
    The proudest trees.

    It's like the morning, —
    Best when it's done, —
    The everlasting clocks
    Chime noon.

  6. The Secret

    by Emily Dickinson

    Some things that fly there be, —
    Birds, hours, the bumble-bee:
    Of these no elegy.

    Some things that stay there be, —
    Grief, hills, eternity:
    Nor this behooveth me.

    There are, that resting, rise.
    Can I expound the skies?
    How still the riddle lies!

  7. Friendship

    by William Francis Barnard

    We cannot rise too high for this;
    We cannot fall too low.
    Or praised as gods, or in the dust,
    It follows where we go.

    It is not gained through noble deeds;
    It shrinks not from life's hurts.
    Too humble 'tis for pride to taint,
    Too great to seek deserts.

    Its sacred solace all accept
    Nor ponder on the cause;
    It is of things that ask no rule,
    That stand above the laws.

    Of things upon no judgment built;
    No weighing of the mind—
    The hunger of the human heart
    To treasure still its kind.

    Amidst the loathing and the scorn
    Some hands will faithful be;
    If honors thicken such will yet
    Give love's simplicity.

    Our morning sun, it shines when strength
    Keeps failure from us far;
    And when we sink, and strive no more,
    It glows, our evening star.

  8. Opportunity

    by John James Ingales

    Master of human destinies am I!
    Fame, love, and fortune on my footsteps wait.
    Cities and fields I walk; I penetrate
    Deserts and seas remote, and passing by
    Hovel and mart and palace — soon or late
    I knock, unbidden, once at every gate!
    If sleeping, wake — if feasting, rise before
    I turn away. It is the hour of fate,
    And they who follow me reach every state
    Mortals desire, and conquer every foe
    Save death; but those who doubt or hesitate,
    Condemned to failure, penury, and woe,
    Seek me in vain and uselessly implore.
    I answer not, and I return no more!

  9. Pain

    by Anonymous

    I am a Mystery that walks the earth
    Since man began to be.
    Sorrow and sin stood sponsors at my birth,
    And terror christened me.

    More pitiless than Death, who gathereth
    His victims day by day,
    I doom man daily to desire Death,
    And still forbear to slay.

    More merciless than Time, I leave man youth,
    And suck life's sweetness out.
    More cruel than despair, I show man truth,
    And leave him strength to doubt.

    I bind the freest in my subtle band.
    I blanch the boldest cheek.
    I hold the hearts of poets in my hand,
    And wring them ere they speak.

    I walk in darkness over souls that bleed.
    I shape each as I go
    To something different. I sow the seed
    Whence grapes or thistles grow.

    No two that dream me dream the self-same face.
    No two name me alike.
    A horror without form I fill all space.
    Across all time I strike.

    Look how man cringes to mine unseen rod!
    Kings own my sovereignty.
    Though seers but prove me as they prove a God,
    Yet none denieth me.

    I come! I come! Life's monster Mystery,
    I come to bless or damn.
    Kneel, kneel, vain soul! Helpless, acknowledge me!
    Thou feelest that I am!

  10. The Fog

    by Anonymous

    It lies dim and cold on the face of the mould,
    Like a smile on the lips of the dead.
    As chill and as white, as dense and as light
    As the winding-sheet laid in the still of the night
    Over the funeral bed.

    No pulse seems to throb, no voice dares to sob
    Beneath the grey calm of the cloud.
    A hush holds the air with pale bands of despair,
    Too close to be pierced by a curse or a prayer—
    The hush of a soul in its shroud.

    No stars in the sky; no lights low or high;
    No laughter; no weeping no breath;
    No murmur, no sound in the whole world around,
    But a silence that lies blank and chill on the ground,
    Like the visible presence of Death.

    No murmur. No sound. Only white on the ground
    There creeps the thin silence along—
    Creeps near and more near,—oh, so dim! oh, so drear!
    Till I shiver, as one who has stood by a bier,
    And the words die away in my song.

  11. Nike

    by Bliss Carman

    What do men give thanks for?
    I give thanks for one,
    Lovelier than morning,
    Dearer than the sun.

    Such a head the victors
    Must have praised and known,
    With that breast and bearing,
    Nike's very own—

    As superb, untrammeled,
    Rhythmed and poised and free
    As the strong pure sea-wind
    Walking on the sea;

    Such a hand as Beauty
    Uses with full heart,
    Seeking for her freedom
    In new shapes of art;

    Soft as rain in April,
    Quiet as the days
    Of the purple asters
    And the autumn haze;

    With a soul more subtle
    Than the light of stars,
    Frailer than a moth's wing
    To the touch that mars;

    Wise with all the silence
    Of the waiting hills,
    When the gracious twilight
    Wakes in them and thrills;

    With a voice more tender
    Than the early moon
    Hears among the thrushes
    In the woods of June;

    Delicate as grasses
    When they lift and stir —
    One sweet lyric woman—
    I give thanks for her.

  12. The Song-Sparrow

    by Henry Van Dyke

    There is a bird I know so well,
    It seems as if he must have sung
    Beside my crib when I was young;
    Before I knew the way to spell
    The name of even the smallest bird,
    His gentle, joyful song I heard.
    Now see if you can tell, my dear,
    What bird it is, that every year,
    Sings “Sweet—sweet—sweet—very merry cheer.”

    He comes in March, when winds are strong,
    And snow returns to hide the earth;
    But still he warms his head with mirth,
    And waits for May. He lingers long
    While flowers fade, and every day
    Repeats his sweet, contented lay;
    As if to say we need not fear
    The season’s change, if love is here,
    With “Sweet—sweet—sweet—very merry cheer.”

    He does not wear a Joseph’s coat
    Of many colors, smart and gay;
    His suit is Quaker brown and gray,
    With darker patches at his throat.
    And yet of all the well-dressed throng,
    Not one can sing so brave a song.
    It makes the pride of looks appear
    A vain and foolish thing to hear
    His “Sweet—sweet—sweet—very merry cheer.”

  13. Song of the School Bell

    by John Edward Everett

    Kind neighbors, you and I are friends.
    And toiling for the selfsame ends,
    To help the children wiser grow,
    And teach them what they ought to know.

    Day after day, the winter through,
    I guard your sons and daughters true.
    Each day at nine I say, "hello",
    To the youthful world of joy and woe.
    Each day at nine are loudly sung
    Clear greetings from my iron tongue,
    While children rush with romp and race,
    As though to meet my fond embrace.
    Then through the hours they ply the mind
    To see what knowledge they may find—
    Sometimes with smile and radiant eye,
    Sometimes with frown and inward sigh.
    'Tis now with bright, now downcast, looks
    They bend their heads above their books.

    Kind neighbors, you and I are friends.
    And toiling for the selfsame ends,—
    To help the children wiser grow,
    And teach them what they ought to know.

  14. Bread

    by John B. Tabb

    Still surmounting as I came
    Wind and water, frost and flame,
    Night and day, the livelong year,
    From the burial-place of seed,
    From the earth's maternal bosom,
    Through the root, and stem, and blossom,
    To supply thy present need,
    Have I journeyed here.

  15. A Riddle

    by Abbie Farwell Brown

    It's a curious house, where people dwell,
    And wonders happen, ill or well,
    The door-plate gives the house's name,
    Likewise the builder of the same.

    You enter, if you have a key,
    And something of a scholar be.
    You ope the door, and in the hall
    A picture greets you, first of all.

    A blazoned notice next you view,
    The builder's name, the owner's too,
    The city where the house was made,
    Date when the corner-stone was laid.

    And then you find a list enrolled
    Of treasures which the house doth hold,
    That you may choose what suits your eye,
    Or if none pleases may pass them by.

  16. Song of the Bubbles

    by Anonymous

    Up and up we go,
    And we shine and glow;
    Though our life lasts not a minute,
    We reflect all colors in it.

  17. A Valentine

    by Edgar Allan Poe

    For her this rhyme is penned, whose luminous eyes,
    Brightly expressive as the twins of Loeda,
    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.

  18. The Cloud

    by Percy Bysshe Shelley

    I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
    From the seas and the streams;
    I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
    In their noonday dreams.
    From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
    The sweet buds every one,
    When rocked to rest on their mother's breast,
    As she dances about the sun.
    I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
    And whiten the green plains under,
    And then again I dissolve it in rain,
    And laugh as I pass in thunder.

    I sift the snow on the mountains below,
    And their great pines groan aghast;
    And all the night 'tis my pillow white,
    While I sleep in the arms of the blast.
    Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers,
    Lightning my pilot sits;
    In a cavern under is fettered the thunder,
    It struggles and howls at fits;
    Over earth and ocean, with gentle motion,
    This pilot is guiding me,
    Lured by the love of the genii that move
    In the depths of the purple sea;
    Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills,
    Over the lakes and the plains,
    Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream,
    The Spirit he loves remains;
    And I all the while bask in Heaven's blue smile,
    Whilst he is dissolving in rains.

    The sanguine Sunrise, with his meteor eyes,
    And his burning plumes outspread,
    Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,
    When the morning star shines dead;
    As on the jag of a mountain crag,
    Which an earthquake rocks and swings,
    An eagle alit one moment may sit
    In the light of its golden wings.
    And when Sunset may breathe, from the lit sea beneath,
    Its ardours of rest and of love,
    And the crimson pall of eve may fall
    From the depth of Heaven above,
    With wings folded I rest, on mine aëry nest,
    As still as a brooding dove.

    That orbèd maiden with white fire laden,
    Whom mortals call the Moon,
    Glides glimmering o'er my fleece-like floor,
    By the midnight breezes strewn;
    And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,
    Which only the angels hear,
    May have broken the woof of my tent's thin roof,
    The stars peep behind her and peer;
    And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,
    Like a swarm of golden bees,
    When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,
    Till calm the rivers, lakes, and seas,
    Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,
    Are each paved with the moon and these.

    I bind the Sun's throne with a burning zone,
    And the Moon's with a girdle of pearl;
    The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim,
    When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl.
    From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,
    Over a torrent sea,
    Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof,
    The mountains its columns be.
    The triumphal arch through which I march
    With hurricane, fire, and snow,
    When the Powers of the air are chained to my chair,
    Is the million-coloured bow;
    The sphere-fire above its soft colours wove,
    While the moist Earth was laughing below.

    I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
    And the nursling of the Sky;
    I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
    I change, but I cannot die.
    For after the rain when with never a stain
    The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
    And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
    Build up the blue dome of air,
    I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
    And out of the caverns of rain,
    Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
    I arise and unbuild it again.

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