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Double Play

No one can deny that word play is found in these twelve verses. From capital letters that represent names, to acrostics, to crossword style riddles, Byron made use of many techniques to hide the information related to finding a casque. Even the Japanese translator commented on this:

Each of the twelve poems can be read in different ways. For example, some prepositions are placed so that it is ambiguous whether it is describing the previous line or the next line. Even when I asked my American colleague, (s)he couldn’t be sure either.

Ambiguity, or equivocation, is a great way to hide information in plain sight. Let's take a look at one stanza from Verse 12:

L sits and left Beyond his shoulder Is the Fair Folks’ Treasure holder

Reading these lines, without any bias related to how the casque was found, we see that there are two equally viable interpretations for the word "left".

  1. Left -- as a noun, meaning the left-hand part, side, or direction, e.g. "turn to the left"

  2. Left -- as a verb, the past tense of Leave, e.g. "I left my wallet in the house"

Taken in the first interpretation, we have, "L sits and left Beyond his shoulder", where "left" refers to the reader, Byron is telling you to go to your left, past L's shoulder. This reads like a directional clue for when you are on site (and was used this way to find the casque).

Taken in the second interpretation, we have, "L sits and left Beyond his shoulder Is the Fair Folk's Treasure holder", where "left" refers to Byron's act of burying the casque and leaving it behind. Byron did leave the casque beyond L's shoulder. Not only is this factually correct, but without the knowledge of where the Chicago casque was found, this way of reading these lines may have been more likely to come to mind.

We're left with some subtle words choices in the verse allowing for two different, yet equally true interpretations of the same lines.

As always, the next question is whether we can apply similar thinking to other verses. Directional and orienting clues do seem like a good opportunity for Byron to leverage equivocation, allowing for lines to have meaning both on site and in the armchair.

Let's take a look at a similar directional clue from Verse 7

Running north, but first across In jewel’s direction Is an object Of Twain’s attention

From a directional perspective, he's telling you that an"object of Twain's attention" can be found in the same direction as the "jewel". This reads very much like on site instructions, but the interesting question is whether Byron intended for us to interpret "jewel" as "casque".

On the one hand, we know that "each key represents the jewel or jewels, which will be given to the person who discovers the hiding place of the casque and key" (pg. 219). If the key is in the casque and the key represents the jewel, then we can make the inference that the word "jewel" can stand in for the word "casque".

At the same time, if we have properly paired the verse and the painting via the Litany of the Jewels, then we have an additional piece of armchair information: that the jewel in question is the Pearl.

What would it mean for Byron to say: "in Pearl's direction"? A tie to the Pearl opens up possible interpretations based on the Litany.

From far Cathay, the dragon’s Pearl: Chaste, perfect as the silver moon.

He tells us that the Pearl comes from "far Cathay", or what at the time would have been known as the "Far East". The Pearl's direction is East.

If we apply this interpretation back to the lines in the verse, it would tell us that, wherever it is that we are, an object of Twain's attention is both in the direction of the buried casque and to the East.

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Very well written, Sir. I tried to sum this up myself, but couldn't quite find the correct approach with the phrasing on my own. Thanks for the counterpoints! :)


May 09


Generally speaking, whether it is word play or any other concept, if there are multiple possibilities then I think it is only prudent to explore all reasonable angles until any or all are eliminated.

Coat-tailing your specific example of verse 7, I like your interpretation of going east (perhaps towards the pearl and Cathay) after finding “Sounds from the sky” and “Near ace is high”. The Team’s “end spot” certainly seems to be a plausible location but, for me, lines 9-12 seem to be pointing you in a different direction (other than north on Powell to the planter).

“Across” could be another word play where it also means “a cross” (brought up many times before I know). A cross…

May 11
Replying to

Also…just wanted to mention a couple of other things - the first probably has no connection to the puzzle at all but is likely just a coincidence and the second you may have already noticed.

I like your Trade Mark interpretation, probably the correct way to look at it since the words are separated, but in looking up Mark Twain in the WBE, there is a photo of him sitting on a porch with the caption “A white linen suit and a cigar became his trademarks in public appearances”.

The two dragons holding up the lantern at each street corner aren’t exactly like the dragon in the woman’s “apron” but are reasonably similar - particularly the shape of the body…

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