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These words! --they come falling free;
speech: daft here, deft there,
in that old, linking tongue.

We take these precious signs and tones,
play them on our organs grand,
sing them in our voices strong--
yet spoken in our poor, restricted speech,
we find them dulled again.

So hear ye of this simple speech,
and grasp it phrase for phrase;
key words to link the harmony,
re-form the dictum true:

The first, the object--
abstract; a guide without a muse.
By itself lives unrestricted,
but here we find it,
linked and woven in.

The second, the tongue--
morphing; with an effortless building
of an ethereal wind;
here one moment, gone the next,
sent ever on its merry way.

The third, the tongue itself--
waiting on society lost,
but alas!-- we blinked,
and now it is dead.

The fourth, the death of wind--
pushing; with a quiet passing.
The spread that does not stop,
until it breaks on us,
and ends its blink of life.

The fifth, the deep--
revelation; a formative thought.
Passing without trace,
but leaving the hint of discovery.

So bring ye of these keys and tones,
enmesh them! string them well.
Then bring them to their linking tongue,
to build the dictum true.

And it should matter not from here,
if mind be bent or broke;
for spoken in the linking tongue,
lo, even Madmen earn respect.


A hint, should you need it:

Unless you've encountered the phrase already, or are very familiar with language, you may not be able to easily find the full, correct answer without the aid of a search engine. You should be able to get pretty dang close, though, unless I've messed up difficulty.

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  • $\begingroup$ (The title here may be somewhat misleading, and I'd discourage using it to build an answer to the question.) (This is also my first riddle, believe it or not, so I'd appreciate feedback!) $\endgroup$ – Aza Aug 10 '16 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ There are various things in the riddle that would lead me to suspect wordplay, but there's no wordplay tag. Should we take it that wordplay is not involved? (Just to clarify the sort of thing I have in mind: words like "morphing", "woven", "does not stop", etc., might indicate anagrams, interweaving multiple words, deleting last letters, etc.) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Aug 10 '16 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ @GarethMcCaughan Wordplay shouldn't be needed to solve the puzzle. Many of the words shouldn't be taken literally, but not in the sense of playing with the letters in the words themselves - more allusive. $\endgroup$ – Aza Aug 10 '16 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ You should get a badge for longest title on pse $\endgroup$ – Avigrail Aug 10 '16 at 18:23
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    $\begingroup$ I think this puzzle is about Latin. It's known for sounding smart, even if meaningless; it's a dead language (see last line of "The third..."); and it's the root of many other languages, "linking" them together. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Aug 10 '16 at 19:16
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I am not awfully sure, but I think the answer may be:

the popular quote: "Anything said in Latin sound profound", or its Latin equivalent "Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum sonatur". This RationalWiki page contains a variation of this quote.

The first, the object--
abstract; a guide without a muse.
By itself lives unrestricted,
but here we find it,
linked and woven in.

"Anything"- refers to an indefinite abstract object, without explicitly naming it. Usually it refers to any object (unrestricted), but here it is deeply related to the rest of the sentence.

The second, the tongue--
morphing; with an effortless building
of an ethereal wind;
here one moment, gone the next,
sent ever on its merry way.

"said (in ?)" - It means the speech (generated by the tongue), that we almost effortlessly create in the air every now and then, and then it fades away (unless written down or otherwise recorded).

The third, the tongue itself--
waiting on society lost,
but alas!-- we blinked, and now it is dead.

"Latin" - The dead tongue (language).

The fourth, the death of wind--
pushing; with a quiet passing.
The spread that does not stop,
until it breaks on us,
and ends its blink of life.

"Sounds"- sound is created by an agitation in the air, which propagates through the air and finally reaches us to be heard.

The fifth, the deep--
revelation; a formative thought.
Passing without trace,
but leaving the hint of discovery.

"profound"- deep, having (or appearing to have) some sublime significance. Not quite sure about this part.

So bring ye of these keys and tones, them! string them well. Then bring them to their linking tongue, to build the dictum true.

Now joining them together, we get the sentence "Anything said in Latin sound profound", and converting to the 'linking tongue' (Latin), we get its more popular variant "Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum sonatur."

And it should matter not from here, if mind be bent or broke; for spoken in the linking tongue, lo, even Madmen earn respect.

That's what the sentence means.

Interestingly enough,

this sentence appears in the chat profile of the OP.

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    $\begingroup$ Hey, I'd totally forgotten about this! This is absolutely the correct answer. (I'd forgotten it appeared in my chat profile, oops.) $\endgroup$ – Aza Oct 19 '16 at 18:12
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Just a guess...

Roget's Thesaurus

Reason #1:

He created lists of words as a compulsion and suffered depression for most of his life. Some would consider this as a "madness"

Reason #2.

Everything in the poem seems to use a word that could have been expressed using a slightly different version of that word. "organs grand" = "pianos", etc.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is actually a pretty interesting guess, particularly because of how I designed this, but I'm not sure how I could see it fitting a number of parts of the puzzle. The use of "madmen" is more thematic than functional, as well. I do think this is a potentially useful line of reasoning, though - particularly #2. $\endgroup$ – Aza Aug 10 '16 at 19:08

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