How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Charades, Pt. 1

My first, tho’ water, cures no thirst;

My next alone has soul,

And when he lives upon my first,

He then is called my whole.

Do you know the answer to this riddle? From Wikipedia: A charade was originally also used to indicate a riddle either in verse or prose, of which the listener must guess the meaning, often given syllable by syllable. So, find the one-syllable answer to the first line, and then to the second, and then put the two syllables together.

And you have: seaman. Pretty neat! I was introduced to these delightful little puzzles in Emma. Emma helps her friend Harriet Smith in “the only literary pursuit which engaged Harriet at present, the only mental provision she was making for the evening of her life … the collecting and transcribing all the riddles of every sort that she could meet with ….” One sort of the “riddles of every sort” was the charade. This was a well-known example that the young ladies found:

My first doth affliction denote,

Which my second is destin’d to feel

And my whole is the best antidote

That affliction to soften and heal.

For the longest time I could not figure out the answer. I believe I finally found it online, somewhat disappointed that it came to that. But at least I’m not reading it over and over, replaying it in my mind, vainly trying to tug off my blindfold. I do dislike an unsolved riddle. Do you know the answer?

The young ladies asked Mr. Elton, the vicar, to write a charade himself. It was pointedly romantic:

My first displays the wealth and pomp of kings,

Lords of the earth! their luxury and ease.

Another view of man, my second brings,

Behold him there, the monarch of the seas!

But, ah! united, what reverse we have!

Man’s boasted power and freedom, all are flown;

Lord of the earth and sea, he bends a slave,

And woman, lovely woman, reigns alone.

Thy ready wit the word will soon supply,

May its approval beam in that soft eye!

I think we all remember that the answer is “courtship.”

Laura, my co-author of the Regency novel, The Wise- and Light-Hearted, hit upon the idea for the two of us to write our own “love riddles.” This predated our novel, but we included them within it as written by our characters, Lucia and Sophia. I can’t describe to you how fun that was! We made our own book and illustrated it:


This was our first charade, a combined effort:

My first describes the savor of orchards,

The scent and taste of its flowers and fruit;

But in man and beast my second can be heard

And felt; it is our life-blood’s sacred root.

Together they form something I can see:

A person whose sight is more than enough

To draw all my senses, ultimately

Creating within me the sense of love.

Take a guess! The answer, as well as our four other charades and more pictures, will be in my next post.

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