The Wilberforce Riddle

“Sweetest of sound, in orchestra heard,

Yet in orchestra never have been,

Bird in light plumage, yet less like a bird,

Nothing in nature has ever been seen,

On earth I expire, in water I die,

Yet I run, swim and fly,

If I cannot be guessed by a boy or a man,

A girl or a woman I certainly can!”

The Wilberforce Riddle was written by Samuel Wilberforce in the 1870s. Wilberforce was a clergyman who was heavily involved in the Darwinian/evolution arguments, but he is best known for this riddle. The riddle appears to have no answer-or rather, Wilberforce did not leave one. The answers given to the riddle range from mythological beings to whales.

So what’s the answer? I have no idea. I’m too abstract a thinker to figure out logic problems (but if you want to debate the treeness of trees, and how trees don’t exist because of that same inherent treeness, then I’m your girl.)


One comment

  1. i think its the human heart …
    for long time .. the “heart beat” is considered the sweetest sound … (and your heartbeat increases when you listen the orchestra ,,, if u like it … which im guessing he did )yet it can never be played in an orchestra .. the heart racing is also considered to be like a bird … yet its held back by various inhibitions .. it just doesnt follow its instincts .. well there is nothing else in nature quite like the human heart is there ? in all its complexes … obviously it expires on earth .. and dies in water … however our feelings run, swim and fly … it has also always been said that women are more attuned to the heart and its feelings than men

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