As the newly hired secretary of your local poetry society, one of your jobs is to go through the mess that is the archives and try and get things in some semblance of order. Currently, you are trying to chronologically order the records from the society's quarterly meetings last year. To complicate your task, the poets couldn't just put a date on things- no, they had to go and encode that information in the form of a poem. Can you decipher the one below and figure out which season the meeting took place in?


There are many riddle poems, but very few poem riddles.

And another (updated):

Each stanza will lead you to a certain thing. These things must be combined in order to find the answer.

The Pet Bird

The first he heard was what it sang of; grief
that it had dared to fly, but back it fell.
Its wings were clipped- it warbled of a sky
it had no claim to, though it fled its cell.

He stooped to cup it with his tender hands
and said, “We’ll not go forth to whence you came!
The sky is dreary- here is warm and safe.
You came here worn and weary- now be tame.”

He laid it in its cage- it scratched and sang,
and every word it called was full of tears.
He frowned and said, “Your life depends on mine!
Give thanks to me- domesticate these fears!”

He left; the bird now had to face the truth
that twice now had been hung about its head:
there would be no returning to the sky.
It popped the cage and tumbled from the ledge.

Its crooked wings were clapsed and folded tight
as lonely Death embraced even one so small.
Its master sprinted in, but found it done:
The beginning and the end were in its fall.

Too late, his heart was sore, and now he saw
that soon begins the month when birds must leave.
The bell-beat sounds- its time was drawing near.
He held it to his chest, began to grieve.

His tears flowed out; he said, “I must be mad-
I think my love’s a song inside my head.
My care was but a third of what I should
have done- I thought I tried, and yet he’s dead.”

His life was torn, now, where it had been tied-
in twain entied, as creepers choke a leaf.
To autumn he went crumpled, dry, and frail,
and with coming on of winter died of grief.

Though man pretends to brains, he’s first a fool,
and fools, beloved of God, will often tend
to weep for birds, and sing their requiems,
forgetting that they sent them to their end.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ does the poets socienty hold monthly meetings, or is the date more precise? must we determine the year also? My local poetry soceity is in the southern hemisphere (where seasons are opposite compared to the northern) will that alter things? $\endgroup$
    – Jasen
    Jun 6, 2016 at 1:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Jasen They're poets- they aren't so fussy about exact dates. I'll edit to clarify $\endgroup$
    – Patrick N
    Jun 6, 2016 at 1:32
  • $\begingroup$ And the hemisphere you're in shouldn't alter the answer you get $\endgroup$
    – Patrick N
    Jun 6, 2016 at 2:22
  • $\begingroup$ I'm picking up multiple seasons in the poem, deliberate? $\endgroup$
    – Xylius
    Jun 6, 2016 at 23:57
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Very tricky and clever.. Finding these things in your puzzle is what's keeping me hooked and eager to find out the answer I like it! $\endgroup$
    – Xylius
    Jun 10, 2016 at 2:45

5 Answers 5


If we think about each stanza as a

reference to a famous poem

And also pay attention to the

type of bird mentioned in each poem

Stanza 1:

Caged Bird - Maya Angelou (Bird)

Stanza 2:

The Raven - Edgar Allan Poe (Raven)

Stanza 3:

A Barred Owl - Richard Wilbur (Owl)

Stanza 4:

No clue

Stanza 5:

No clue

Stanza 6:

The Wild Swans at Coole - William Butler Yeats (Swan)

Stanza 7:

Mad Girl's Love Song - Sylvia Plath (Thunderbird)

Stanza 8:

Not sure, maybe 'Patches' by Earley? No reference to a bird in it though...

Stanza 9:

No clue

With all of them together, I think this might be leading to

The first letter of the type of bird mentioned in each poem spells something? Right now we have BRO__ST__. This could be completely wrong though.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think it's more about the poets themselves. I also think the "hung about it's head" might be a reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner". $\endgroup$ Jun 15, 2016 at 1:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The question asks us to figure out the "season", not "month". A season is 3 months. There are 9 verses. Could the 9 refer to nine separate months, omitting the three that correspond to the season? $\endgroup$ Jun 15, 2016 at 3:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ So, your theory is not entirely correct, but now I kinda wish that's how I had done it, cause it would have saved me a fair bit of work. But here we are! I will say that all the poems you've identified thus far are accurate, and you're very much on the right track. And for a cryptic hint: there are no cardinals in this poem, but there are some ordinals. Good luck! $\endgroup$
    – Patrick N
    Jun 15, 2016 at 5:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @PatrickN indeed there are. I would do some more work on this if I could find a second. $\endgroup$ Jun 15, 2016 at 13:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I realise I'm quite late to the party on this one, but it's still unsolved. I can't help but notice that the stanzas you haven't been able to associate with poems (4, 5 and 9) are also the only stanzas which don't contain hyphens. The OP has alluded to the post title being a hint and it contains two hyphens. I know each stanza is supposed to lead to "something", but there happens to be 6 stanzas which contain hyphens and each season has 6 letters (outside the US): Summer, Spring, Autumn and Winter. My knowledge (or lack thereof) of poetry might hurt my ability to solve this, but try I shall! $\endgroup$
    – Dmihawk
    Feb 28, 2017 at 1:29

Previous flailing deleted. It serves no good.

The meeting was in:

Fall/Winter: late November

Last gasp, for I have spent far, far too long worrying about this.

it warbled of a sky it had no claim to

Flightless bird. Turkey.

worn and weary

Upon a midnight dreary - a Poe reference, but I'm ignoring it.

Give thanks to me

4th Thursday in November

where it had been tied- in twain entied, as creepers choke a leaf.


  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Mm, not quite, sorry. I'd be interested to hear your reasoning, though! $\endgroup$
    – Patrick N
    Jun 9, 2016 at 1:45
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, I see where you were going with that. My recommendation- keep looking at the post title. There's valuable information in there, and I promise it's not hidden! $\endgroup$
    – Patrick N
    Jun 9, 2016 at 2:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Come now, would I really go to all this trouble if the answer was in the title? I think I'll update the hint in a way that may make things more clear. $\endgroup$
    – Patrick N
    Jun 10, 2016 at 0:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Of course- wouldn't make for a good puzzle otherwise! The post title is there to give a little help, but you'll have to use the entirety of the poem- every stanza- to find the answer. $\endgroup$
    – Patrick N
    Jun 10, 2016 at 2:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Why would you give up, when you've just noticed something nobody else has? If there's anything I've learned from puzzling, it's that nothing should be ignored en route to a solution... $\endgroup$
    – Patrick N
    Jun 10, 2016 at 4:24

I had, I think, a good eureka moment, but I'm still a ways off. Here's what I've got so far.

first of all:

It's not just a riddle that's a poem, or made up of poems. It's a riddle about poems.

Unfortunately, that doesn't help me much, because

I don't know much about poetry.

But I suspect that

Each stanza references a specific poem (or poems) and knowledge of those poems is vital to solving the puzzle. For example the first two stanzas contain references to Maya Angelou's "Caged Bird" and Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven", respectively. It's worth noting that both of these poems feature birds prominently, like the riddle itself. I'm not sure if this pattern holds, but if I were a betting man, I'd put money on it.

I still don't know for sure how to determine the season, but I have a few ideas. Namely

Each stanza has seasonal references such as "first a fool" for april fools day or "give thanks to me" for thanksgiving. The poem references serve to tell you which seasonal reference describes the season in question.

Or possibly

something about the poems themselves (e.g. when they were published, or when the author died, or seasons mentioned in the referenced poems) tells you the season in question.

Or, quite possibly, a combination of the two.

  • $\begingroup$ A good eureka moment, indeed! Here's a cryptic tip- everything you need to lead you to the solution is in the text of those poems, but the solution itself lies elsewhere... $\endgroup$
    – Patrick N
    Jun 10, 2016 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ I think maybe this goes with the third stanza, which matches your guesses so far! I have the same lack of subject knowledge as you so it's just luck I found it.. really intrigued to see the solution. $\endgroup$
    – user812786
    Jun 14, 2016 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ Given that Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a book, not a poem, I think this is more about the poets than the poems. $\endgroup$ Jun 15, 2016 at 1:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Paul Beckingham Sorry, you're right. The poem I was referring to is entitled simply "Caged Bird". I've edited my answer with the correct title. $\endgroup$ Jun 15, 2016 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ @whrrgarbl definitely. The language is too peculiar to be coincidental. $\endgroup$ Jun 15, 2016 at 13:38

Fall. The poem states that the next month the birds will leave (fly south for the winter).

  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, no- there's a little more to it than that. If you read the comments on the main post, you'll note that nothing in the riddle has any direct reference to the answer $\endgroup$
    – Patrick N
    Jun 9, 2016 at 15:08

I've been analyzing the poem, here are my findings. I don't pretend to have solved the riddle, I just think that this might be a good place to start looking.

From the hint: we should take each stanza separately. I interpret that as being that each stanza has a separate answer, and that you shouldn't look to the entire poem, but divide it into fragments. Each stanza appears to be about a certain mythological figure.
For example, the first stanza appears to be about the Icarus-myth: Icarus had wax wings, flew too close to the sun out of pride, the wings melted and he fell to the ground.
Maybe this is what should be looked at: Mythological figures that fit one of these poems. The trivia tag and the fact that this is a poem riddle (a riddle consisting of poems) instead of a riddle poem (a riddle that is written like a poem) support this interpretation.

New idea:

Winter, around Christmas. The entire poem is referring to an undercooked turkey, and turkey actually is eaten mostly around Christmas in Europe. I will add further explanations once i get home and not on a terrible mobile device.

  • $\begingroup$ Not quite there. I would look at Paul's answer- there's a reference he noticed that may bear fruit $\endgroup$
    – Patrick N
    Jun 10, 2016 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ @patrickn are you talking about the question title or the poem title? $\endgroup$
    – Nzall
    Jun 10, 2016 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ The question title. The poem title is devoid of meaning. Also, see Gabriel's recent post for a neat pointer. $\endgroup$
    – Patrick N
    Jun 11, 2016 at 1:22

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