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I heard this from an elderly German gentleman with a strong accent. At first I thought he was reciting a Robert Frost poem, but then the last line confused me.

Some see de earth vill end times four,
Some see de t'rice.
From vot I've tasted of de four times,
I and zose who know for whom it vas.
But if I must perish twice ...

I am enough of 'ate
To see zat it is for destruction
Zat de ozzer is really won.
Now, vhich is vorth most?

What is really going on here?


Hint:

Philipp's answer is on the right track. In each line, extract a few words that can be interpreted as part of something else, and discard the other words.


Inspired by both [Robert Frost](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_and_Ice_(poem)) and [xkcd](https://xkcd.com/312/) via the [current Topic Challenge](https://puzzling.meta.stackexchange.com/q/6352/5373).
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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Does it require to have knowledge of any other language other than English? $\endgroup$ – Karan Desai Jun 29 '18 at 6:33
  • $\begingroup$ @KaranDesai No. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jun 29 '18 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ It's been a while, could you add a hint? $\endgroup$ – David Foong Jul 4 '18 at 14:13
  • $\begingroup$ rot13(Qbrf guvf evqqyr qrfreir gur trbtencul gnt?) $\endgroup$ – Philipp Aug 22 '18 at 8:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Philipp Nope. For a hint, try the arithmetic tag. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Aug 22 '18 at 8:58
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I really have no idea what the solution could be, but since nobody has mentioned it so far, and since it may help others to find the actual answer, I’ll add this little piece:

»Some see de« and »Some see de t'rice« could be »sum CD« and »sum CD thrice«, so maybe »C+D« and »3(C+D)«.

Further, »end« may be »N«,
»for« could obviously be »4«,
»I and« may be »I N«, »end« could also be »N«, »ate« could be »8«,
»To see zat« could be »2CZ«,
»Zat de« could be »ZD«,
»won« could be »1«.

The whole puzzle would look something like this:

(C+D) earth vill N x4,
3(C+D).
From vot I've tasted of D x4,
I N zose who know 4 whom it vas.
But if I must perish x2 ...

I M enough of 8
2 C Z it is 4 D struction (?)
Z D ozzer is really 1.
Now, vhich is vorth most?

Another, more unlikely substitution:

»earth vill« = »equals«

I still cannot figure out the whole, though.

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  • $\begingroup$ You're getting very close to the right answer here. How many of the words in each line can be interpreted as letters or numbers? $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Oct 2 '18 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ Fetching even further, maybe rot13["bs" naq "vs" pbhyq zrna "S" naq "vf" pbhyq zrna "F"]? And perhaps even ["rabhtu" vf "AS"]? $\endgroup$ – jafe Nov 22 '18 at 10:24
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    $\begingroup$ vot I've sounds like rot 5 to me. $\endgroup$ – mkinson Dec 27 '18 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ Also, I is likely imaginary considering the line "But if I must perish twice" which, it does since i * i = -1 $\endgroup$ – mkinson Dec 27 '18 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ After spending an hour without notable progress, I made the answer community wiki to encourage other users. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Dec 29 '18 at 17:39
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Updated to a full answer based on What Philipp already began. Also based on two comments by Rand regarding "arithmetic" and how many words can be represented by letters and numbers.. And trying to think of the simplest and most literal of solutions..

Note first that the puzzle is split into two stanzas. The first stanza is a series of equations and the second stanza provides the values of the letters.


some (sum) see (c) de (d) earth vill end (and) times four (X4)
4(C+D)
Some (sum) see (c) de (d) t'rice (x 3)
Either C + 3D or + 3CD
From vot I've tasted of de (d) four times (X4)
(4D)
I (I) and (+) zose who know for (4) whom it vas.
I+4
But if I (I) must perish twice (x2) ...
2I


I (I) am enough of 'ate (8).
I=8
To (2) see (c) zat it is (=) for (4) destruction
2C=4
Zat de (d) ozzer is (=) really won (1).
D=1,
Now, vhich is vorth most?


From above, if D = 1 and 2C = 4, meaning C=2, and I=8 which make the above equations read:
4(2+1)=12
2+3*1=5 or (2+3)*1=6
4*1=4
8+4=12
8*8=64 or 8+8=16 or more obscurely using perish to mean to subtract 8-2=6

in all of these the greatest value would be 64 or 16 assuming we're not to subtract 2..


And so my answer is the line "But if I must perish twice..." for 2I

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  • $\begingroup$ I had thought about some of your suggestions, but I believe it must be simpler than that: @Randal'Thor knows his tags, and the riddle is tagged arithmetics, but not math. The description of the Arithmetics tag reads: “For puzzles involving addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division.” There shouldn’t be “complex” math (irrational numbers like i) involved. (The riddle isn’t actually tagged arithmetics, but check the comments on the question.) $\endgroup$ – Philipp Dec 29 '18 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Philipp although it looks like that tag has been removed, ???? EDIT: oh, I see it now. They put it in a comment. $\endgroup$ – Hugh Dec 29 '18 at 21:19
  • $\begingroup$ If the first is 4(c+d), shouldn't the second one be 3(c+d)? $\endgroup$ – jafe Dec 31 '18 at 15:28
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    $\begingroup$ I think somehow I hadn't seen this answer, since I never commented on it (maybe because another answer came after it and so I didn't realise it was a double answer notification over Christmas). Or at least I never saw the latest edited version. You almost did everything, back in 2018; see my notes for this puzzle (spoilers, obvs). Really sorry that I never responded to this! I hope you're still around to see this comment :-( $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jul 27 at 8:21
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    $\begingroup$ Still around. Seeing your notes I see how close I was. I wont change my answer since I looked at it, but it was a close one! Thanks for the update. $\endgroup$ – mkinson Jul 27 at 12:52
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Here some of an attempt heavily inspired by other posts

I number the lines of the poem

(1)Some see de earth vill end times four,
(2)Some see de t'rice.
(3)From vot I've tasted of de four times,
(4)I and zose who know for whom it vas.
(5)But if I must perish twice ...

(6)I am enough of 'ate
(7)To see zat it is for destruction
(8)Zat de ozzer is really won.
(9)Now, vhich is vorth most?

Here are my best interpretations

(1) sum cee dee equals n times 4 $(C+D)=N\times 4$ this gives us one equation.
(2) sum cee dee trice $(C+D)\times 3$, I think since there is no equation we continue with this quanity
(3) from that(i.e. the quantity in (2)) I have taken off dee four times. Now we have the quantity $(C+D)\times 3- D\times 4$.
(4) "I" sounds like $E$ in a thick german accent and $E$ makes sense as it is the next letter after $D$. I think this line is trying to say $E$ from those is not four (i.e. negative four) and 1. $3C-D-E=-4+1$.
(5) $FE$ must perish twice, $FE=-2$\

(6) $E\times N =8$
(7) $2C=4D$
(8) $D=1$
These all give that $N=3/4, F=-16/32, E=32/8=4, D=1, C=2$ so $E$ is worth the most

Here are some notes on myanswer

! I believe the German accent hint is being overlooked by other answers, and that too many words are being left out. I think the first line must be "some $C$ $D$ is equal $N$ times four". I think the third line must be "from that I've taken off $D$ four times". My solution definitely goes wrong at "I and zose who know for whom it vas". But I do think this is introducing a new unknown, "I" sound is pronounced as $E$. I think it is too much of a coincidence that "E" is next free letter after $C$ and $D$.


Update: due to hint

(1) $(C+D)\times 4$
(2) $(C+D)\times 3$ or maybe $(C+3\cdot D)$
(3) $D\times 4$
(4) $I+4$
(5) $I \times 2$\

Lines (6-8) give use the values $I=8$, $2C=4$ or $C=2$, and $D=1$.

this gives use the following values for the expressions

(1) $(C+D)\times 4=12$
(2) $(C+D)\times 3=9$ or maybe $(C+3\cdot D)=5$
(3) $D\times 4=4$
(4) $I+4=12$
(5) $I \times 2=16$
So the fifth line is worth the most!

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    $\begingroup$ You're getting very close. The only things that count as part of the equations or formulae are c, d, i, $+,\times,=$, and ordinary numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.). The first five lines give formulae, the next three lines equations. The equations give the values of c, d, i, and then the values of the five formulae can be deduced. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jul 26 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ Good hint!, I think I should be close now? $\endgroup$ – Mark Murray Jul 27 at 8:15
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    $\begingroup$ Opps! I realise now that my answer updated to the hint is the same as mkisons $\endgroup$ – Mark Murray Jul 27 at 8:19
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    $\begingroup$ Yep, now you're pretty much there. Here's the notes I had made for this puzzle (spoilers, obvs). I hadn't thought of "some" -> "sum". Sorry if this whole process is too arbitrary; in hindsight it's a much worse puzzle than I thought it would be. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jul 27 at 8:19
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    $\begingroup$ No worries, Mark Murray. You still independently got to the answer! $\endgroup$ – mkinson Jul 27 at 12:58
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Here's my attempt!

Some see de earth vill end times four,

Get the sum of C, D, VILL, and multiply that by 4 = 2824

Some see de t'rice.

Sum of C and D, three times = 600*3 = 1800

From vot I've tasted of de four times,

D four times is 500 * 4 = 2000

I and zose who know for whom it vas.

1 (I) and 4 (for) is 5

But if I must perish twice ...

1 (I) twice is 2

I am enough of 'ate

1 of 8 ('ate) either 8 or 1/8

To see zat it is for destruction

2 C (to see), 4 D (for de-) is 2200

Zat de ozzer is really won.

D (de) won (1) is 500

Now, vhich is vorth most?

The first line is worth most because 2824 is the highest overall number. And even if VILL doesn't count (I know that's an improperly formed roman numeral), 2400 is still the highest of all of them.

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  • $\begingroup$ You're getting close, but there are no Roman numerals involved. The only things that count as part of the equations or formulae are c, d, i, $+,\times,=$, and ordinary numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.). $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jul 26 at 16:32
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Rand'll responded with a hint so here is a guess:

It's de t'rice

Why?

The whole thing is two separate algebra problems. Following de t'rice gets us the greater number: 1/3.
following the x4 path gets us -3/2 (very unsure about this one)
Some see de earth vill end times four, one equation with 4x
Some see de t'rice. Another with 3y

From vot I've tasted of de four times, I and zose who know for whom it vas. But if I must perish twice ...

Subtract 2 from 4x. Now we have 4x -2

I am enough of 'ate

'ate is 8. 4x -2 = 8

To see zat it is for destruction

8 is for destruction, make it negative. We have 4x - 2 = -8

Zat de ozzer is really won.

The other is one. 3y = 1

Now, vhich is vorth most?

We solve, y = 1/3, x = -3/2. Y is worth more. T'rice wins!

Old thoughts:

Some see de earth vill end times four, (x4)
Some see de t'rice. (x3)
From vot I've tasted of de four times, (4x or x4)
I and zose who know for whom it vas.
But if I must perish twice ... (2x or possibly more like divide twice)

I am enough of 'ate (8)
To see zat it is for destruction (4? Remove 4?)
Zat de ozzer is really won. (The other is 1. The number to subtract? Top of a fraction?)
Now, vhich is vorth most? -> Could mean a bunch of things. This is probably the line we should pay attention to. Which of the two numbers offered at the beginning (3 and 4) end up being worth more? I'm guessing we have to do some computations but I'm not sure what to do.

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  • $\begingroup$ You're going along the right lines here. HINT: think of it as an algebra problem. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Aug 27 '18 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the hint. Updated my answer $\endgroup$ – David Foong Aug 27 '18 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ Now you're straying further away from the right lines. HINT: some of the words can be interpreted directly as numbers or letters. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Aug 27 '18 at 16:53
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Since there is no answer yet, I'm just gonna write this out

Some say the earth will end (times four)?,
Some say thrice.
From what I've tested of the (four times)?,
I and those who know for whom it was.
But if I must perish twice ...
I am enough of ('ate)?
To see that it is for destruction
That the other is really one.
Now, which is worth most?

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He is talking about pessimism really
He has seen how the world will end and or has ended multiple times (not literally) and he is venting that the world is dead and has been dead over many times (not details thought)
It is his sadness of mankind
He is mocking those and saddened by those who lack the knowledge to see what he sees. At the end he is saying what is worse? Knowing or not knowing.

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    $\begingroup$ Nope, sorry, this is way off. The answer is more ... unique and specific than that. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Aug 23 '18 at 9:11
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First paragraph:

Witnessing generations born before you eventually pass away.

Second paragraph:

Seeing people of one's own age eventually pass away one after another thus you are forced to realise your own life is to end soon too, cherishing the younger generations will remain for you.

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