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Sappho's riddle. There is a feminine creature who bears in her bosom a voiceless brood; yet they send forth a clear voice, over sea and land, to whatsoever mortals they will; the absent hear it; so do the deaf. This is the riddle, as recorded by Antiphanes, and preserved by Athenaeus. It appears that somebody tried to guess it. The feminine creature, he thought, was the state. The brood must be the orators, to be sure, whose voices reached beyond the seas, as far as Asia and Thrace, ane. The brood must be the orators, to be sure, whose voices reached beyond the seas, as far as Asia and Thrace, and brought back thence something to their own advantage; while the community sat dumb and deaf amid their railings. This seemed plausible, but somebody else objected to the solution; for who ever knew an orator to be silent, he said, until he was put down by force? All of which sounds quite American and modern. But he gave it up, at last, and appealed to Sappho, who thus replied:--
Sappho's solution. A letter is a thing essentially feminine in its character. It bears a brood in its bosom named the alphabet. They are voiceless, yet speak to whom they will; and if any man shall stand next to him who reads, will he not hear?