The Riddle Book (Wendell, MA: J. Metcalf, 1828)
[illustration of a seated boy]
SOLD BY J. METCALF,
[illustration of a jester]
PRINTED AND SOLD BY J. METCALF.
In Spring I look gay,
Deck’d in comely array,
In Summer more clothing I wear;
When colder it grows,
I fling off my clothes,
And in Winter quite naked appear.
My body is light,
My head it is white,
With a cord I am laced around;
I am beaten with sticks,
Yet not for bad tricks,
But to animate, by my sound,
The unthinking youth,
Not heeding the truth,
Which would save them from every alarm,
To fight, kill, and die,
And cause much misery,
To those who have done them no harm.
There’s not a kingdom on the earth,
But I have travell’d o’er and o’er,
And though I know not whence my birth,
Yet when I come, you know my roar.
I through the town do take my flight,
And through the fields and meadows green,
And whether it be day or night,
I neither am nor can be seen.
If old stories say true,
I could once talk like you;
But for fear of becoming a slave,
I was instantly mute,
And grew cunning to boot,
Determined my freedom to save.
Now the fop and the fool,
And the rude boy at school,
All endeavour to practise my art,
But their efforts are vain;
They pretenders remain,
And must—till the world they depart.
To observe how I grin,
With my snub nose, lips, and chin,
Would the laughter excite of a lord;
And for mimicry too,
I my betters outdo,
And more innocent pleasure afford.
I am as useful to the nation,
As some who move in higher station;
And fraught with virtues deem’d inherent,
May well be call’d the king’s vicegerent, [sic]
As I his subjects render stronger,
And die that they may live the longer.
I am a merry creature,
In pleasant time of year,
As in but certain seasons,
I sing that you can hear:
And yet I’m made a by-word,
A very perfect mock;
Compar’d to foolish persons,
And silliest of all folk.
We dwell in cottages of straw,
And labour much for little gains;
Sweet food from us our masters draw,
And then with death reward our pains.
I view the world in little space,
Am always restless, changing place;
No food I eat, but, by my power,
Procure what millions do devour.
There was a thing a full month old,
When Adam was no more;
But ere that thing was five weeks old,
Adam was years five score.
I fly to any foreign parts,
Assisted by my spreading wings:
My body holds an hundred hearts,
Nay, I will tell you stranger things:
When I am not in haste I ride,
And then I mend my pace anon;
I issue fire out from my side:—
Ye witty youths, this riddle con.
My friend and I from home did part,
Of whom I had some way the start:
So on we ran, ten miles or more,
And I same distance was before:
Now tell me how that this could be,
As I ran twice as fast as he?
Two bodies have I, though both join’d in one;
The stiller I stand, the faster I run.
In almost every house I’m seen,
(No wonder then I’m common)
I’m neither man, nor maid, nor child,
Nor yet a married woman.
I’m pennyless and poor as Job,
Yet such my pride by nature,
I always wear a kingly robe,
Though a dependent creature.
For vigilance and courage true,
I’ve no superior, equals few:
Which makes me by the industrious priz’d,
But by the indolent despis’d;
Bold and alert I meet the foe,
In all engagements without valour show;
And if he proves too proud to yield,
One falls before we quite the field.
My form is beauteous to the ravish’d sight,
My habit gay, my colour gold or white;
When ladies take the air, I, without pride,
A faithful partner, am close by their side;
I near their persons constantly remain,
A favourite slave, bound with a golden chain;
And though I can both speak and go alone,
Yet are my motions to myself unknown.