Translation © by Sharon Krebs

Language: German (Deutsch)  after the English 
Available translation(s): CAT DUT ENG FRE
Es flüstert's der Himmel, es murrt es die Hölle,
Nur schwach klingt's nach in des Echo's Welle,
Und kommt es zur Fluth, so wird es stumm,
Auf den [Höhen]1, da hörst du sein zwiefach Gesumm.
Das Schlachtengewühl liebt's, fliehet den Frieden,
Es ist nicht Männern noch Frauen beschieden,
Doch jeglichem Thier, nur mußt du's seciren.
Nicht ist's in der Poesie zu erspüren,
Die Wissenschaft hat es, vor [allen]2 sie,
Die Gottesgelahrtheit und Philosophie.
Bei den Helden führt es den Vorsitz immer,
Doch mangelt's den Schwachen auch innerlich nimmer,
Es findet sich richtig in jedem Haus,
Denn ließe man's fehlen, so wär' es aus.
In Griechenland klein, an der Tiber [sic] Borden
Ist's größer, am größten in Deutschland geworden.
Im Schatten birgt's sich's, im Blümchen auch;
Du hauchst es täglich, es ist nur ein [Hauch]3.

View original text (without footnotes)

Confirmed with Taschenbibliothek der ausländischen Klassiker, in neuen Verdeutschungen, No. 202. Byron’s Poesien, Sieben und zwanzigstes Bändchen, übersetzt von Karl Ludwig Kannegießer, Zwickau: im Verlage der Gebrüder Schumann, 1827, pages 194-195. The original poem was misattributed to Byron in the first publication of this translation.

Note: the answer to the riddle is the letter 'h'. Several words in this poem are now spelled without an 'h', such as "Flut" and "Tier", but the riddle would lose meaning if they were modernized.

1 Schumann: "Höh'n"
2 Schumann: "allem"
3 Schumann: "(was ist's?) Es ist nur ein *"


Based on

Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • CAT Catalan (Català) (Salvador Pila) , copyright © 2021, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • DUT Dutch (Nederlands) [singable] (Lau Kanen) , "Raadsel", copyright © 2012, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ENG English (Sharon Krebs) , "Riddle", copyright © 2016, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , "Énigme", copyright © 2010, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Sharon Krebs [Guest Editor]

This text was added to the website: 2003-11-19
Line count: 18
Word count: 134

Language: English  after the German (Deutsch) 
Heaven whispers it, it is grumbled by hell,
It sounds only weakly in echo’s wave,
And if it comes to a flood, it becomes mute,
Upon the heights you hear its two-fold humming.
It loves the turmoil of battle, flees peace,
It is given neither to men nor women,
But to every animal, only you have to dissect it;
No trace of it can be found in poetry,
But scholarly disciplines have it, [above all others]1
Theology and philosophy.
It is always at the head when it comes to heroes,
But the wretched also never lack it internally,
It is well and truly found in every house,
For if it were omitted, it would be over.
It is small in Greece, on the banks of the Tiber
It is bigger, and it has become the biggest in Germany.
It hides itself in the shadow, in the little flower too,
You breathe it daily, it is only a [breath].2

View original text (without footnotes)
1 Schumann: "everything else"
2 Schumann: "(what is it?) It is only an *". Schumann ends his song on a hummed B; that note is called H in German and is therefore the answer to the riddle.


  • Translation from German (Deutsch) to English copyright © 2016 by Sharon Krebs, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.

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This text was added to the website: 2016-01-13
Line count: 18
Word count: 158