The Chess Variant Pages



Chess Morality XV: Piece Offering

By George William Duke



Chess is a sea where a gnat may drink and an elephant may bathe. --Indian proverb

O God. Send me a new animal. --Louis XIV, Le Roi Soleil

What is Chess? What is life? -- al-Rushid, Caliph of Baghdad, 7th century

Although I had a check, to give the mate is hard;
For I have found a neck, to keep my men in guard.
I rede you take good heed, and mark this foolish verse;
For I will so provide, that I will have your ferse.
And when your ferse is had, and all your war is done;
Then shall yourself be glad to end that you begun.
For if by chance I win your person in the field,
Too late then you come in yourself to me to yield.
Defend it if thou may; stand stiff in thine estate:
For sure I will assay, if I can give thee mate.
--Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, 'To the Lady That Scorned Her Lover'

much suspected by me, nothing proven can be. Queen Elizabeth prisoner
--Elizabeth I, written with a diamond on her window

That which is above is as that which is below, and that which is below is as that which is above, to perform the miracles of the One Thing.
--'The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismesgistus', 7th Century

Falcon: Lo! Falcon swoops to conquer fearful dove!
No 'piece-ful' coexistence in this time
Of in-the-flesh appearing right above!
This couplet makes all ten paired metres rhyme:
'The avatar Horus' all-seeing Eye,
We have a Star chorus' rallying cry.'

Pawn: In movement without fanfare or applause,
My world runs parallel, not met headlong.
What other piece gives one so frequent pause?
Play 'devil-in-detail' or be dead wrong
When off'ring up as sacrificial Lamb
A passing Pawn to get out of a jam.

Knight: Suppose Horse of a different colour
Takes the colour of a different Horse.
Is that spectrum of life growing fuller,
Or evolution becoming spent force?
New species invading uncharted lands
No requiem for the departed brands.

Bishop: They think their order's not reached final stand,
Once fire stolen from gods, apples from Tree.
Parlour tricks, trade, court intrique, sleight-of-hand
Politics played to a ghost gallery.
'Elephants remember,' for all they're worth,
What came before ascent of man on Earth.

King: Each piece to own species! King for Lion
Heraldic crests, masques, arms, hearts all the rage;
Primaeval mark of rule, the Scorpion
Bequeaths Chess King its eight steps to engage.
Symbol and myth the real Rock of Ages!
High-flown immortal truths the 'yak' of sages.

Queen: With but world enough and time to handle,
Given there's so little room for error,
If the Royal Game were worth the candle
Faced by the prospective loom of terror--
Hawk, Bird goddess, Artemis' universe
Has her totemic surrogate in Ferse.

Rook: Ring of Recurrence once more on the run,
'Tween 'Rook' and hard place, devil deep blue sea.
To rescue something from oblivion,
To hold thought with specific gravity,
That which is above dares to lie ahead,
Lest high and low not coexist instead.


--George William Duke 2004