5
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A friend sent me this poem recently and wanted me to take a guess about what it says and where it came from. The first word tricked me at first until after it became clear there was a misspelling error. Some of the words look familiar and seem to come from other languages, but most have no clear way of being pronounced. Can someone help me find out what the poem says and its author?

Sudurb aw tharns mu cta tazl xoekecb puk’jekf,
     Hguqen em wodozocy hxatbakg puwer;
Feexanoec cebxa oq nkovp ojn czuje hcij’tung,
     Vawjisbq rtoh xxasjux osx jaohr-qiptxp sjaj qdum.

Stack nofprrois xreglop ipzurg aeqy sucuzn,
     Cowrisx oz pohhu hy rofagahn zsabrm nxoc;
Pocofebm kiahn dziha dukv lhoeg laxujepj
     Dvmaezd ek dope mioqak, tfar bafr ef cni tow.

Goweaw ibs qvfectuiv, bozieli adq bofayemc,
     Qcruusocx ikr sinticn owv xjsuwqqoqc axsise,
Resjbaq unukiw re nbfopmuf-lizb lveyanf,
     Xeqnpuf op ekeor bvov gnemgi kco hpaot.

Fojiipc ur govc jwiv xma afjayp lidruwjuf,
     Cefqenc iqc huoh ed sqe qhine ep flo keav,
Svfeazenc dca gemipu lavw jeakmuczr ehnilpid,
     Yavsekr lku zugtaq oq Zdequ’d ged talo.

Veqw vah’rh okm xynotakg esy’r uzz rzihqnizm,
     Xoff ndul cvaul sib ef dcu qeac-xuklar’l fwteegz;
Bluam vvawet sqonhow a’el sarutw fhiwi tacsrosf
     Haunr zavh re fiupa iw zpa kgixj pije gerzeogq.

Dofzhiaw wlec hsokqky ariiwrg kji neax pipdoh,
     Nohibjs mrolu xeaznm uwe gy podbib efdin’d,
Ipq zodilx go afctiv vhi nohb oqm vfi pobev,
     Afby pni laoh rizw kpec corm uc bza lanli!

UPDATE

My friend gave me a binary file and said that it can help with understanding the poem. Since there was no clear location for uploading a binary file, "lzma.pickle.cat" has been encoded in base 85 and copied down below. He would not tell me what to do with it. Does the data help anyone else?

{Wp48S^xk9=GL@E0stWa8~^|S5YJf5;0GrJ3ta#}0S<dM8x%bU$a_Yu-YM>xC#*R~bcMvdH^7p9!1vXIH`{}-G6fZOE?+y!Bg-`;#ANbxp4kmEPm**hUp+I`w{AiqYifn<rUA8g2AM5Cs2$u_cm&&Z2HMvczSOl-NbHV^c>TNKGh%kWR#`3*EcE8vW|orIr<)T9V31!duxz{LZf<1St8KGH=473q9V~typhyj#NEK;mMK$cSJkENXFbu8aHQ%<?r{n$mP%d;j`A5n37SWGRbAY7p$v3qRZXz_A8xXN@oDjTj5qJ|*gN-o{KU>hFvZ__ZpXZ-`Cd?Q;3Q9Pbkg6JY)h|M@a64*7S>X-QnIG5t?&DA`j3Ek`=0F8yfadvcL?x*sIZ&_<Ryo+J4XnLCi3-NkLIlQ4PfWl3jsjAeJob004tX&0sX*7V)N0g_-3!o9uqK9p6qMZXLJZNZ97|oF6)4E?O{fM`u0QfN+#dsTh_BL5As^&zwKgp+|LcdW$lDrI2uKhc^>8Yh3$No?3+ADHm{GQ_!_~zt6FdL2XSi^yd5ankBGRVGxV+F04j6k6;~a`-D$3MxvWLh=^DQ+|0+I`wpvKM!{AOHQJOSG0B5K?X?vQ$wgPSn0VaBXyOE;M8OA+n+e8}*D2cq|#SmI>tSe7F~+D^P-`(bu`xUa5Ih;Vgja;$rP;!)mRpla!3fiumff>%0L5FaU&ox*-7apoYAr00YXP(H;v>xAJqhzNYr5ZutQonLi0LWEvvv76Am(cATFHcz$ialyUNnpS~s_{KUSHyO<lVH>8|`GrH#Hhye(f4eD>s(cNKE>6jyyCdN_1*<X8@5G{EEWxkD%%>u`U*PAA?k%dd0jP1XP6+<jmREyD>oZjWWsHavGm{P3qC~7sZPyU8Z{pNr^Jl;xFVfQ0hZlf_yi){j*gJ(gPf9H;ZlnYV3Yi+Rrd|*|Lc<+|ZSy&Cih8sJsWuJ4QC$2EJYUsZHs?qGbeycc31-9>B6FVlaP^jHn#VIdoPVl>kz!x=M6j(!+E?_@JZLiIk6=<64C}zt;(8LfgLOh?7x<G#^h3SjFR`Tc@ZeZ_TGj@DurKDc`CNwsR!Jw2>LIeUbtB1f?T}fH`B$&M%w~U$B|8@cG3tu`#tX}GV9sQ&a65pwquJr&q2$hCwJyXMN1gt9P+4W7DrWB8*odsK=H#RKxp8wdph@cTo)Ck!US!2%;o)3-ODF6@Jp;S-YHe`2hEk}b&1Ae;6ycc?f7UzH<Qsjyylq4ZDda{$j~UhRUSS#ff`UzaJ`S8hNUbk@jCO07cR8)pg0(LX!Ixo@h5c?7W3Vxonf^b=x)7fMh3;x(EaLuqweSD{0!M5NT`k@|00E~6s15)Cs-k^$vBYQl0ssI200dcD
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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Looks like a cipher $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Aug 18 '17 at 18:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't think it's a regular substitution cipher $\endgroup$ – Dr Xorile Aug 18 '17 at 19:06
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Most ciphers don't leave the words pronounceable, which makes me think that two separate ciphers have been applied -- one to the consonants and one to the vowels. $\endgroup$ – CR Drost Aug 18 '17 at 22:09
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Partial answer: The poem is

H.P. Lovecraft's The Cats:

Babels of blocks to the high heavens tow’ring,
Flames of futility swirling below;
Poisonous fungi in brick and stone flow’ring,
Lanterns that shudder and death-lights that glow.

Black monstrous bridges across oily rivers,
Cobwebs of cable by nameless things spun;
Catacomb deeps whose dank chaos delivers
Streams of live foetor, that rots in the sun.

Colour and splendour, disease and decaying,
Shrieking and ringing and scrambling insane,
Rabbles exotic to stranger-gods praying,
Jumbles of odour that stifle the brain.

Legions of cats from the alleys nocturnal,
Howling and lean in the glare of the moon,
Screaming the future with mouthings infernal,
Yelling the burden of Pluto’s red rune.

Tall tow’rs and pyramids ivy’d and crumbling,
Bats that swoop low in the weed-cumber’d streets;
Bleak broken bridges o’er rivers whose rumbling
Joins with no voice as the thick tide retreats.

Belfries that blackly against the moon totter,
Caverns whose mouths are by mosses effac’d,
And living to answer the wind and the water,
Only the lean cats that howl in the waste!

since the number of verses, the number of words per sentence, the word lengths, the punctuation and the apostrophes all fit. It's also worth noting that

The position of each consonant and vowel also fits, which probably means that they were substituted separately somehow (as CR Drost guessed in a comment above). Edit: In addition, as niemiro has astutely noted, the y's in the poem aren't encrypted (that is, they all stay in their original position, because "sometimes y"?), so that might also help people work out the code.

But alas, I might know a bit of poetry but my knowledge of intricate ciphers is severely lacking... ;) I'll try and work it out, but greater minds will probably be able to come up with the actual solution. But I might as well describe how I got to the poem:

While I vaguely know the poem, I didn't actually remember it; instead, o'er was the key here. Upon examining the text, it occured to me that while the letters are all wrong, their structure still looks like proper English [stupidly, I skipped the comments; that might've saved me time ;)]. Applying that logic, I focused on a’el; the only poetic contractions that came to mind which fit this consonant-vowel pattern were e'er (ever), e'en (even) and o'er (over). I fortunately went with the latter first, and then thought: 'over what?' After a couple of minutes of trial and error, rivers seemed to fit the pattern of the next word sarutw (and sounded lyrical), and a search turned up The Cats, which fit everything else.

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4
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Using Noctis Skytower's excellent Python code to decompress the LZMA compressed binary, Unpickle the result and print the output (this covers the 'lzma' and 'pickle' parts of the filename lzma.pickle.cat so perhaps there's still a clue to be gleaned from 'cat'), cleaning up the output we get:

(ouiae,
 aiuoe,
 ioeau,
 iueoa,
 iouea,
 ioaeu,
 ioeau,
 iaoeu,
 eiauo,
 uaoei,
 ioeau,
 uieao,
 eaiuo,
 iauoe,
 oaiue,
 aeoui,
 ueoai,
 euiao,
 uoaie,
 ouaie,
 uaoei,
 iaueo,
 euaoi,
 uaoie,
 uaeoi,
 eouia)

iueeiuiaeeuaoouuiiaoouiau

(OAEIU,
 OIEUA,
 IOEAU,
 AEUOI,
 UOEAI,
 EUIOA,
 IAEUO,
 OAEIU,
 OUEAI,
 IUOEA,
 UEIAO,
 IUEAO,
 UEOIA,
 OUIAE,
 IOUAE,
 OIUEA,
 UEOIA,
 OIUEA,
 AIUOE,
 EOIAU,
 UIAEO,
 UIAOE,
 UAIOE,
 IEUAO,
 IUEAO,
 UIAOE)

UEUOUOUOEEUIIEIEIUIAEIAIE

(tdplgqjswmnhvkczrfbx,
 clhwkgsbrxpmjntvzfdq,
 sjnzxcmwqptvkfgrblhd,
 jsmbwzqrthpkfgvcxnld,
 bhmfvrpzjglwsxntcdqk,
 xzvmtgcrkdhqnsljpbwf,
 nbhcpmzwsvkqlftdrxgj,
 pndfgblzmwkqcvxjrsht,
 hmzxgfrptqbdlcnwjkvs,
 hlrmqpsbnxkwtjgczdfv,
 wtzkqvgmnsbrjlhfcxdp,
 wbmthrdxgclvjqksfpnz,
 fcpjrlxskgmzqtvdwbhn,
 xmrhvgswzdlbfqcjntkp,
 rjbkgtwhpqzlxmnsvfdc,
 gxlbvmpsfchnkrdzqtjw,
 lswjkrgmqzpnbdhftxcv,
 cmlrzkxtfpbdhqgnsjvw,
 vjkznpclsdgrmxtbhqfw,
 jgkhdcmsqzbrlwxtnvfp,
 fxnwrjtqpvglkmzsbcdh,
 zwbncqghlsxkvprtjmdf,
 pnlmcjkwvsgdtfrxzbqh,
 jqvcpzxlsmrwhkndgfbt,
 lmxbtdhgckzsjvwpqfnr,
 rsmdlhzvtbwncqjgfkxp)

jrfnvmkdkhkghkrnsrvpxfvsk

(WKBZVNDCRTPLMGHXQSJF,
 VJPTNZBMKXWSDGQRFCHL,
 WHNSKRVDJPFTQMBGZCLX,
 CVXBPSZQMFDWNLTJKHRG,
 FQJKZMNLXSRDCVWGTHBP,
 VZRXSKWCQDFBLNTGHPJM,
 PNFZRMHXTVBWKCDQLSGJ,
 RLWPVGKFBSXQJNTDHZCM,
 KLGSVWJZTDQCFXNPHRBM,
 CBQFZMHDPVSKJXGNTWLR,
 XWCBGMQZVSDKPLNHFRJT,
 QBFRHZDMLJVPWTKXGCNS,
 QGMCLNVFBHWXDJZTRSKP,
 TNGPCBQHZDSXLJWKFRMV,
 THWLPNGMQSXKFRBDJZCV,
 KGJNTMQXRLZCPDBFHSVW,
 SZHKJMFWPQXLBNTVDCRG,
 FNCHVSJLQGKDTPBXRZWM,
 RGLTVCZMDNFKSQHWXPJ,
 MFPTVLZHRDKGSWCXNQJ,
 VPJGCXRQFBTWZHDSKLMN,
 KWFCXDSMBQVHGJNZRPLT,
 QXRKGDFBHJCZSLWMPVTN,
 PGWFSLKBNXRQVTJCHZDM,
 PHKBXFJMTSNGZVWDCRLQ,
 CQWXKGFBVJTPMLRNHSDZ)

LDQQZDTSDNRBPTSTZXKWMBSXZ

Some notes:

  1. Each section above has 26 lines. The poem has 24 non-blank lines.
  2. There are 5! = 120 ways to permute five vowels, so the vowel sections above do not represent all possible vowel permutations.
  3. The single line sections "iueeiuiaeeuaoouuiiaoouiau", "UEUOUOUOEEUIIEIEIUIAEIAIE", "jrfnvmkdkhkghkrnsrvpxfvsk", "LDQQZDTSDNRBPTSTZXKWMBSXZ", which each seem to go with the 26 line section above respectively, are each 25 characters long - 1 less character than is in the traditional English alphabet.
  4. The consonant sections (first line "tdplgqjswmnhvkczrfbx") are each 20 characters long - 1 less character than is in the traditional English alphabet less vowels. Here, y is the missing letter.

In fact - y is missing everywhere. There is no instance of y or Y anywhere in this output although the letter y does feature in both the ciphertext and Walt's answer's guess at the poem.

I think we can therefore conclude from this that:

  1. Lowercase vowels, uppercase vowels, lowercase consonants excl. y and uppercase consonants excl. Y are all permuted separately.
  2. The letters y and Y are invariant & therefore not encrypted.

I additionally note that the positions of the y and Y character between the ciphertext and Walt's guess at the poem are indeed invariant, adding to the already overwhelming evidence that Walt has guessed the poem correctly.

I am still working on precisely how the permutation keys work.

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  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The "cat" part might confirm Walt's answer $\endgroup$ – ev3commander Sep 3 '17 at 12:36
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There appear to be a couple of characters missing from the 7th and 8th lines from the bottom of the upper-case consonants block (RGLTVCZMDNFKSQHWXPJ, and MFPTVLZHRDKGSWCXNQJ, are both one shorter than the rest of the lines). @NoctisSkytower Is this expected, or something wrong in decoding/transcription? $\endgroup$ – TripeHound Sep 13 '17 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ @TripeHound It appears that this uses the same encryption method used in the final challenge presented in Justice and Fairness: Part 1 and Justice and Fairness: Part 2. $\endgroup$ – Noctis Skytower Jan 11 at 14:27
3
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After trying to get something out of the "lzma.pickle.cat" file, a method for showing its data was successfully developed. There is nothing sensible about the data other than the fact that it seems to deal with consonants and vowels as suggested by CR Drost. Exactly what is to be done with the data has not been specified.

from base64 import b85decode
from io import BytesIO
from lzma import decompress
from pickle import Unpickler
from pprint import pprint
LZMA_PICKLE_CAT = (b'{Wp48S^xk9=GL@E0stWa8~^|S5YJf5;0GrJ3ta#}0S<dM8x%bU$a_Yu-Y'
                   b'M>xC#*R~bcMvdH^7p9!1vXIH`{}-G6fZOE?+y!Bg-`;#ANbxp4kmEPm**'
                   b'hUp+I`w{AiqYifn<rUA8g2AM5Cs2$u_cm&&Z2HMvczSOl-NbHV^c>TNKG'
                   b'h%kWR#`3*EcE8vW|orIr<)T9V31!duxz{LZf<1St8KGH=473q9V~typhy'
                   b'j#NEK;mMK$cSJkENXFbu8aHQ%<?r{n$mP%d;j`A5n37SWGRbAY7p$v3qR'
                   b'ZXz_A8xXN@oDjTj5qJ|*gN-o{KU>hFvZ__ZpXZ-`Cd?Q;3Q9Pbkg6JY)h'
                   b'|M@a64*7S>X-QnIG5t?&DA`j3Ek`=0F8yfadvcL?x*sIZ&_<Ryo+J4XnL'
                   b'Ci3-NkLIlQ4PfWl3jsjAeJob004tX&0sX*7V)N0g_-3!o9uqK9p6qMZXL'
                   b'JZNZ97|oF6)4E?O{fM`u0QfN+#dsTh_BL5As^&zwKgp+|LcdW$lDrI2uK'
                   b'hc^>8Yh3$No?3+ADHm{GQ_!_~zt6FdL2XSi^yd5ankBGRVGxV+F04j6k6'
                   b';~a`-D$3MxvWLh=^DQ+|0+I`wpvKM!{AOHQJOSG0B5K?X?vQ$wgPSn0Va'
                   b'BXyOE;M8OA+n+e8}*D2cq|#SmI>tSe7F~+D^P-`(bu`xUa5Ih;Vgja;$r'
                   b'P;!)mRpla!3fiumff>%0L5FaU&ox*-7apoYAr00YXP(H;v>xAJqhzNYr5'
                   b'ZutQonLi0LWEvvv76Am(cATFHcz$ialyUNnpS~s_{KUSHyO<lVH>8|`Gr'
                   b'H#Hhye(f4eD>s(cNKE>6jyyCdN_1*<X8@5G{EEWxkD%%>u`U*PAA?k%dd'
                   b'0jP1XP6+<jmREyD>oZjWWsHavGm{P3qC~7sZPyU8Z{pNr^Jl;xFVfQ0hZ'
                   b'lf_yi){j*gJ(gPf9H;ZlnYV3Yi+Rrd|*|Lc<+|ZSy&Cih8sJsWuJ4QC$2'
                   b'EJYUsZHs?qGbeycc31-9>B6FVlaP^jHn#VIdoPVl>kz!x=M6j(!+E?_@J'
                   b'ZLiIk6=<64C}zt;(8LfgLOh?7x<G#^h3SjFR`Tc@ZeZ_TGj@DurKDc`CN'
                   b'wsR!Jw2>LIeUbtB1f?T}fH`B$&M%w~U$B|8@cG3tu`#tX}GV9sQ&a65pw'
                   b'quJr&q2$hCwJyXMN1gt9P+4W7DrWB8*odsK=H#RKxp8wdph@cTo)Ck!US'
                   b'!2%;o)3-ODF6@Jp;S-YHe`2hEk}b&1Ae;6ycc?f7UzH<Qsjyylq4ZDda{'
                   b'$j~UhRUSS#ff`UzaJ`S8hNUbk@jCO07cR8)pg0(LX!Ixo@h5c?7W3Vxon'
                   b'f^b=x)7fMh3;x(EaLuqweSD{0!M5NT`k@|00E~6s15)Cs-k^$vBYQl0ss'
                   b'I200dcD')
up = Unpickler(BytesIO(decompress(b85decode(LZMA_PICKLE_CAT))))
try:
    while True:
        pprint(up.load())
except EOFError:
    pass
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  • $\begingroup$ That's fantastic - I couldn't get any of the online converters to work with the given Base85 string. Are you also able to upload the decoded binary file somewhere as a convenience for the rest of us? Thank you. $\endgroup$ – niemiro Aug 31 '17 at 16:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @niemiro If you can answer Where should binary files be stored?, I might be able to make the binary file available online. $\endgroup$ – Noctis Skytower Aug 31 '17 at 16:18
1
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not an answer yet, but here are some thoughts:

"The first word tricked me at first until after it became clear there was a misspelling error"

this leads me to believe that some letters are substituted and some are not, in this case words like "Sudurb" can become "Suburb" or "tharns" "thorns", "puwer" "power", etc. You can already see a flaw in my substitution though, d maps to b, but then b also maps to b in the word suburb, so maybe this isn't right.

My other hangup is

The apostrophes. Most of them look okay, there's one or two letters after the apostrophe, like you'd expect in words like, "I've" or "they'd" or the posessive 's. The two that trip me up though are the words "puk’jekf" and "hcij’tung" which could be no words I know, given where the apostrophe occurs in them. So perhaps the apostrophe is substituting for some letter? This also doesn't make a lot of sense, because the other apostrophe occurrences seem pretty natural, and if it were substituting a letter I doubt it would follow the usual second-to-last or third-to-last pattern.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm guessing it's something Elizabethan late romantic. They used to use internal apostrophes to fix up the meter. Things like "heav'nly" that had an elidable internal syllable. What gives me pause is that the ending letters don't seem to follow a pattern. I would expect to see a few more repeated letters if it were a rhyming poem. $\endgroup$ – Hugh Meyers Aug 18 '17 at 19:39
  • $\begingroup$ @HughMeyers you would see repeated letters if it were a simple substitution cypher, but I really don't think it is. I feel like it's something where some letters get substituted and some don't, depending on some rule like where you are in the line. I.E. the first three words on a line have 1 letter substituted, the next three have two, or something. idk that doesn't make sense, but I'll figure something out $\endgroup$ – MMAdams Aug 18 '17 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ I was also hoping it'd be something fun, like a Vigenere on a Victorian Villanelle, but the number of lines is wrong for a Villanelle, I just thought of those words together and wished it to be true. $\endgroup$ – MMAdams Aug 18 '17 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking as well of a rotating or Vigenere cipher but I don't think that a Vigenere is likely to be solvable unless there's a clue to the key that I missed. I thought it might be Blake because he tended to write in quatrains. The word lengths look wrong for Blake though. $\endgroup$ – Hugh Meyers Aug 18 '17 at 20:31

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