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Later, viz., in 1736, an English translation of the Scacchiæ Ludus' (Game of Chess) was published by one George Jeffreys. It was Vida's Scacchiæ Ludus' which procured for its author the patronage of Pope Leo X., and subsequently advanced him in the Church and otherwise. He afterwards published the Christiad' and other works.—Ed.]
ARMIES of box that sportively engage
And mimic real battles in their rage,
Pleased I recount; how, smit with glory's charms,
Two mighty Monarchs met in adverse arms,
Sable and white : assist me to explore,
Ye Serian Nymphs, what ne'er was sung before.
No path appears : yet resolute I stray
Where youth undaunted bids me force my way.
O'er rocks and cliffs while I the task pursue,
Guide me, ye Nymphs, with your unerring clue.
the rise of this diversion know,
You first were pleased in Italy to show
This studious sport; from Scacchis was its name,
The pleasing record of your Sister's fame.
When Jove through Ethiopia's parch'd extent
To grace the nuptials of old Ocean went,
Each god was there ; and mirth and joy around
To shores remote diffused their happy sound.
Then when their hunger and their thirst no more
Claim’d their attention, and the feast was o'er;
Ocean, with pastime to divert the thought,
Commands a painted table to be brought.
Sixty-four spaces fill the chequer'd square ;
Eight in each rank eight equal limits share.
Alike their form, but diff'rent are their dyes,
They fade alternate, and alternate rise,
White after black; such various stains as those
The shelving backs of tortoises disclose.
Then to the Gods, that mute and wondering sate,
You see (says he) the field prepared for fate.
Here will the little armies please your sight,
With adverse colours hurrying to the fight :
On which so oft, with silent sweet surprise,
The Nymphs and Nereids used to feast their eyes,
And all the neighbours of the hoary deep,
When calm the sea, and winds were lull’d asleep.
But see, the mimic heroes tread the board ;
He said, and straightway from an urn he pour'd
The sculptured box, that neatly seein'd to ape
The graceful figure of a human shape :-
Equal the strength and number of each foe,
Sixteen appear'd like jet, sixteen like snow.
As their shape varies various is the name,
Different their posts, nor is their strength the same.
There might you see two Kings with equal pride
Gird on their arms, their Consorts by their side;
Here the Foot-warriors glowing after fame,
There prancing Knights and dexterous Archers came,
And Elephants that on their backs sustain
Vast towers of war, and fill and shake the plain.
And now both hosts, preparing for the storm
Of adverse battle, their encampments form.
In the fourth space, and on the farthest line,
Directly opposite the Monarchs shine;
The swarthy on white ground, on sable stands
The silver King; and thence they send commands.
Nearest to these the Queens exert their might;
One the left side, and t’other guards the right:
Where each, by her respective armour known,
Chooses the colour that is like her own.
Then the young Archers, two, that, snowy-white,
Bend the tough yew, and two, as black as night;
(Greece call’d them Mars's favourites heretofore,
From their delight in war, and thirst of gore).
These on each side the Monarch and his Queen
Surround obedient; next to these are seen
The crested Knights in golden armour gay;
Their steeds by turns curvet, or snort, or neigh.
In either army on each distant wing
Two mighty Elephants their castles bring,
Bulwarks immense! and then at last combine
Eight of the Foot to form the second line,
The vanguard to the King and Queen; from far
Prepared to open all the fate of war.
So moved the boxen hosts, each double-lined,
Their different colours floating in the wind :
As if an army of the Gauls should go,
With their white standards, o'er the Alpine snow
To meet in rigid fight on scorching sands
The sun-burnt Moors and Memnon's swarthy bands. 80
Then Father Ocean thus : You see them here,
Celestial Powers, what troops, what camps appear.
Learn now the sev'ral orders of the fray,
For ev’n these arms their stated laws obey.
To lead the fight, the Kings from all their bands
Choose whom they please to bear their great commands.
Should a black hero first to battle go,
Instant a white one guards against the blow ;
But only one at once can charge or shun the foe.
Their gen’ral purpose on one scheme is bent,
90 So to besiege the King within the tent, That there remains no place by subtle flight From danger free; and that decides the fight. Meanwhile, howe'er, the sooner to destroy Th’imperial Prince, remorseless they employ
95 Their swords in blood ; and whosoever dare Oppose their vengeance, in the ruin share. Fate thins their camp; the parti-coloured fieldWidens apace, as they o'ercome or yield, But the proud victor takes the captive's post; 100 There fronts the fury of th' avenging host One single shock; and (should he ward the blow), May then retire at pleasure from the foe. The Foot alone (so their harsh laws ordain) When they proceed can ne'er return again.
105 But neither all rush on alike to prove The terror of their arms: the Foot must move Directly on, and but a single square ; Yet may these heroes, when they first prepare To mix in combat on the bloody mead,
110 Double their sally, and two steps proceed; But when they wound, their swords they subtly guide
With aim oblique, and slanting pierce his side.
But the great Indian beasts, whose backs sustain
Vast turrets arm’d, when on the redd’ning plain 115
They join in all the terror of the fight,
Forward or backward, to the left or right,
Run furious, and impatient of confine
Scour through the field, and threat the farthest line. 119
Yet must they ne'er obliquely aim their blows;
That only manner is allowed to those
Whom Mars has favour'd most, who bend the stubborn
These glancing sidewards in a straight career,
Yet each confined to their respective sphere,
Or white or black, can send th' unerring dart
Wing'd with swift death to pierce through ev'ry part.
The fiery steed, regardless of the reins,
Comes prancing on; but sullenly disdains
The path direct, and boldly wheeling round,
Leaps o’er a double space at ev'ry bound:
And shifts from white or black to diff'rent colour'd
But the fierce Queen, whom dangers ne'er dismay,
The strength and terror of the bloody day,
In a straight line spreads her destruction wide,
To left or right, before, behind, aside.
Yet may she never with a circling course
Sweep to the battle like the fretful Horse;
But unconfined may at her pleasure stray,
If neither friend nor foe block
way ; For to o'erleap a warrior, 'tis decreed
140 Those only dare who curb the snorting steed. With greater caution and majestic state The warlike Monarchs in the scene of fate Direct their motions, since for these appear Zealous each hope, and anxious ev'ry fear.
145 While the King's safe, with resolution stern They clasp their arms; but should a sudden turn Make him a captive, instantly they yield, Resolved to share his fortune in the field. He moves on slow; with reverence profound
150 His faithful troops encompass him around,
And oft, to break some instant fatal scheme,
Rush to their fates, their sov’reign to redeem;
While he, unanxious where to wound the foe,
Need only shift and guard against a blow.
155 however, can presume
Within his reach, but must his vengeance fear ;
For he on ev'ry side his terror throws;
But when he changes from his first repose,
Moves but one step, most awfully sedate,
Or idly roving, or intent on fate.
These are the sev'ral and establish'd laws:
Now see how each maintains his bloody cause.
Here paused the God, but (since whene'er they wage War here on earth the Gods themselves engage 165 In mutual battle as they hate or love, And the most stubborn war is oft above), Almighty Jove commands the circling train Of Gods from fav’ring either to abstain, And let the fight be silently survey'd;
170 And added solemn threats if disobey'd. Then call’d he Phoebus from among the Powers And subtle Hermes, whom in softer hours Fair Maia bore : youth wanton'd in their face; Both in life's bloom, both shone with equal grace.
175 Hermes as yet had never wing’d his feet; As yet Apollo in his radiant seat Had never driv'n his chariot through the air, Known by his bow alone and golden hair. These Jove commission'd to attempt the fray,
180 And rule the sportive military day; Bid them agree which party each maintains, And promised a reward that's worth their pains. The greater took their seats; on either hand Respectful the less Gods in order stand,
185 But careful not to interrupt their play, By hinting when t advance or run away.
Then they examine, who shall first proceed To try their courage, and their army
lead. Chance gave it for the White, that he should go 190 First with a brave defiance to the foe. Awhile he ponder'd which of all his train