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"Mary had a riddle lamb, brain-tease was hard as stone!"

Today Mary's lamb wants you to solve its riddle.

A white man plowing the dark soil
Silent oxen around him toil
A train whistle is near
What's said may disappear

Half hint:

The lamb isn't involved, that's just the name of a series of riddle.

Hint #1:

Caius Titus dixit

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The answer is

CHALK.

A white man plowing the dark soil

Chalk on a blackboard.

Silent oxen around him toil

Silent pupils in a classroom, or students in a lecture hall, toiling to copy down what the chalk is writing on the board. Intended explanation: silent fingers gripping the chalk and toiling to move it.

A train whistle is near

The whistle at the start and end of school sessions. Intended explanation: chalk screeching on a blackboard can sound like a train whistle.

What's said may disappear

The writing on the board (what's 'said' by the chalk) gets rubbed out ('disappears') later. This was also intended to be a reference to the Latin proverb "Verba volant, scripta manent".

I got this by reading the full poem alluded to in the title and hunting for ideas in there.

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  • $\begingroup$ Mary's Lamb followed her to the "answer" one day :-) Great Job !!! $\endgroup$ – kanchirk Mar 27 '15 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ No, but quite close! $\endgroup$ – leoll2 Mar 28 '15 at 5:41
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, extremely close, a couple of your explanations are correct. $\endgroup$ – leoll2 Mar 28 '15 at 9:22
  • $\begingroup$ @leoll2 I've edited - any joy? $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Mar 29 '15 at 13:02
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    $\begingroup$ @leoll2 I've now edited to take account of these explanations. Nice riddle btw! The first line is the biggest giveaway; as we've seen, the rest can be made to fit the answer in a couple of ways. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Mar 29 '15 at 15:06
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I don't think it fits as well as the other close answer, but maybe it's:

Examination

A white man plowing the dark soil

White exam paper, with black writing

Silent oxen around him toil

Silent students toiling at the exam

A train whistle is near

The whistle to signal the end of the exam

What's said may disappear

The only thing spoken is the invigilator announcing the remaining time left for the exam, which inevitably disappears.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice try, but not what I was thinking! $\endgroup$ – leoll2 Mar 29 '15 at 12:45
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what about:

eraser ?

A white man plowing the dark soil
Silent oxen around him toil

the erasers are usually white rubber thingy and the oxen are the letters written

A train whistle is near
What's said may disappear

what is written will be erased, no idea if the whistle plays an important role or just makes the riddle dramatic :)

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  • $\begingroup$ I didn't see your answer when I posted mine! We've got a lot of the same ideas, but I think I've cracked it since the whistle and the title fit my answer too. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Mar 27 '15 at 21:32
  • $\begingroup$ yes indeed.. good work @randal'thor ! $\endgroup$ – zlobi.wan.kenobi Mar 27 '15 at 21:35
  • $\begingroup$ Close, but not my answer! $\endgroup$ – leoll2 Mar 28 '15 at 5:42

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