Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IX. Tragedy: Humor
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IX. Tragedy: Humor.  1904.
Humorous Poems: IV. Ingenuities: Oddities
A Riddle
Catherine Fanshawe (1765–1834)
The Letter “H”

’T WAS 1 in heaven pronounced, and ’t was muttered in hell,
And echo caught faintly the sound as it fell;
On the confines of earth ’t was permitted to rest,
And the depths of the ocean its presence confessed;
’T will be found in the sphere when ’t is riven asunder,        5
Be seen in the lightning and heard in the thunder.
’T was allotted to man with his earliest breath,
Attends him at birth, and awaits him in death,
Presides o’er his happiness, honor and health,
Is the prop of his house, and the end of his wealth        10
In the heaps of the miser ’t is hoarded with care,
But is sure to be lost on his prodigal heir.
It begins every hope, every wish it must bound,
With the husbandman toils, and with monarchs is crowned.
Without it the soldier, the seaman may roam,        15
But woe to the wretch who expels it from home!
In the whispers of conscience its voice will be found,
Nor e’en in the whirlwind of passion be drowned.
’T will not soften the heart; but though deaf be the ear,
It will make it acutely and instantly hear.        20
Yet in shade let it rest, like a delicate flower,
Ah, breathe on it softly,—it dies in an hour.
Note 1. Sometimes attributed to Byron. [back]

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