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Here's one I thought folks here might appreciate. It'll require a combination of codebreaking (or codefinding) and a tiny dab of cryptic mindset.

What poem is written below? For bonus points, provide the literal translation of what's written below.

While you theoretically don't need a computer for this, I'll be shocked if anyone does solve this without one. Especially if you don't have an internet connection...

emzwo agzan fjifj emzwo agzan fjifj
emzwo agzan fjifj ijvzo sadsg
agjou eshiy 0978 ietob cetne muuol ovcma hyupv
ehuph ovcma fuarp arkla agibh
axesu ehgej ovcma emusp eocgy myjpa
ezbor 0978 ietob cetne
muuol ovcma hyupv

Hint #1:

Strictly speaking, this isn't a cipher. Not every code is designed to hide what's being said.

Hint #2 (Cryptic):

Bugs Bunny might have found this (slightly) easier than you.

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  • $\begingroup$ Can you add a hint? $\endgroup$
    – WOWOW
    Jul 25, 2023 at 18:46
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    $\begingroup$ @WOWOW Bit early for a hint! It's only been live 2 hours and someone might fancy a crack at it in its current form :) $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Jul 25, 2023 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ Like you, as I have seen in your answers to other questions :P $\endgroup$
    – WOWOW
    Jul 25, 2023 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ Heh heh. I'll give it a hint tomorrow at work, just going to bed now. There's some subtle but very cryptic hints already in the title and description, but they're extremely vague. Good luck! $\endgroup$ Jul 25, 2023 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ When will you add it? $\endgroup$
    – WOWOW
    Jul 26, 2023 at 7:36

1 Answer 1

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Plaintext

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

The Charge of the Light Brigade, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Encryption

As the title "The Poem's in the Wires" implies, this is a commercial telegraph code. Unlike military codes, commercial codes were not kept secret and were used by the public to reduce the cost of sending telegrams by making them shorter. Here is the website I found that lists hundreds of commercial codes. This poem was written in 1854 during the heyday of the Morse telegraph, so it is not impossible that it would have been sent by wire, though maybe not with this particular codebook.

This is a one-part code. This means the codebook only contains the code once, with both plain words and code words in alphabetical order. This implies that after breaking an encoded message, recovering the plain equivalents for several code words, and putting the code words in alphabetical order, then the plain equivalents will also be in alphabetical order. This can be exploited by the codebreaker to eliminate possibilities for the remaining codewords after one or more codewords are known or assumed. Because of this weakness, most military codes were eventually replaced with two-part codes, where there is no alphabetical order and the book must reproduce the code in both encoding (organized by plaintext) and decoding (organized by codeword) formats.

Here is the coded text written above the plaintext, followed by the recovered code words which show their plain equivalents in alphabetical order. I am uncertain about one codeword, and another is a complete mystery.

emzwo agzan fjifj   emzwo agzan fjifj
Half  a     league, half  a     league,

emzwo agzan fjifj  ijvzo    sadsg
Half  a     league on-      ward,

agjou eshiy 0978       ietob cetne muuol ovcma hyupv
All   in    the valley of    Death Rode  the   six hundred.

ehuph     ovcma   fuarp arkla    agibh axesu  ehgej ovcma emusp  eocgy myjpa
“Forward, the     Light Brigade!  <?>  Charge for   the   guns!” he    said.

ezbor 0978        ietob  cetne muuol ovcma   hyupv
Into  the  valley of     Death Rode  the     six hundred.


0978  - the valley
agibh - ???
agjou - all
agzan - a
arkla - brigade
axesu - charge
cetne - death
ehgej - for
ehuph - forward
emusp - guns
emzwo - half
eocgy - he
eshiy - in
ezbor - into
fjifj - league
fuarp - light
hyupv - 600?
ietob - of
ijvzo - on
muuol - rode
myjpa - said
ovcma - the
sadsg - ward

What did I Google to find the poem?

poem first few words repeat three times

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  • $\begingroup$ Not bad! So, you have the poem correct, but strictly speaking, your plaintext is wrong, in two places. Hence why you've got a codeword you couldn't translate. If we don't have a full translation/solve by the end of the day you'll win :) $\endgroup$ Jul 26, 2023 at 9:45
  • $\begingroup$ What does this have to do with Bugs Bunny? $\endgroup$
    – WOWOW
    Jul 26, 2023 at 9:45
  • $\begingroup$ The Bugs Bunny clue hints towards the correct codebook. As @codewarrior0 correctly stated, there were many such telegraph codebooks. Only one is the precisely correct one that leads to the fully plaintext. $\endgroup$ Jul 26, 2023 at 9:47
  • $\begingroup$ Well, strictly speaking, decoding a coded message with the codebook in hand is not codebreaking. :P $\endgroup$ Jul 26, 2023 at 9:51
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    $\begingroup$ I'm just going to guess that it's the "Acme" code. $\endgroup$ Jul 26, 2023 at 9:58

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