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VIDA'S GAME OF CHESS,
AS IT HAS BEEN FOUND TRANSCRIBED IN THE HANDWRITING
NOW FIRST PRINTED (1854) FROM THE ORIGINAL MS.
IN THE POSSESSION OF
BOLTON CORNEY, ESQ.
MARO JEROME VIDA, a very distinguished modern Latin poet, was born at Cremona, towards the close of the fifteenth century. His Scacchie Ludus, or Game of Chess, introduced him to the notice of LEO X., who was delighted with the novelty of its subject and the felicity with which it was treated. That great patron of letters immediately called Vida to his court, and loaded him with wealth and honors. Among other benefices he presented the poet with the priory of St. Silvestro, near Tivoli, that he might devote his time to study and composition. He died in 1566.
The Game of Chess has been translated into Italian, by Masden and Pindemonte, and into French by M. Levée, with the other works of Vida, in 1809. His poem De Arte Poetica, which Julius Scaliger preferred to that of Horace, has been twice translated into English.
The following translation of the Scacchie Ludus was not known to Mr. BOLTON CORNBY at the time of publishing his illustrated edition of Goldsmith's Poems, but has since come into his possession. It was communicated by him to Mr. PETER CUNNINGHAM, by whom it was first printed in the beautiful edition of Goldsmith's Complete Works, recently issued by Mr. Murray.
Of the manuscript of this translation, Mr. Forster, who has drawn largely from it in the last edition of his admirable work on the Life and Times of Goldsmith, gives the following account: “It is a small quarto manuscript of thirty-four pages, containing six hundred and seventy-nine lines, to which a fly-leaf is appended, in which Goldsmith notes the differences of nomenclature between Vida's chessmen and our own. It has occasional interlineations and corrections, but rather such as would occur in transcription than in a first or original copy. Sometimes, indeed, choice appears to have been made (as at page 29) between two words equally suitable to the sense and verse, as to' for toward ;' but the insertions and erasures refer almost wholly to words or lines accidentally omitted and replaced. The triplet is always carefully marked ; and though it is seldom found in any other of Goldsmith's poems, I am disposed to regard its frequent recurrence here as even helping in some degree to explain the motive which had led him to the trial of an experiment in rhyme comparatively new to him. If we suppose him, half consciously it may be, taking up the manner of the great master of translation, Dryden, who was at all times so much a favorite with him, he would at least be less apt to fall short in so marked a peculiarity, than to err perhaps a little on the side of excess. Though I am far from thinking such to be the result in the present instance. The effect of the whole translation is very pleasing to me, and the mock heroic effect I think not a little assisted by the reïterated use of the triplet and Alexandrine. As to any evidences of authorship derivable from the appearance of the manuscript, I will only add another word. The lines in the translation have been carefully counted, and the number is marked in Goldsmith's hand at the close of his transcription. Such a fact is, of course, only to be taken in aid of other proof; but a man is not generally at the pains of counting --- still less, I should say, in such a case as Goldsmith's, of elaborately transcribing lines which are not his own."
VIDA'S GAME OF CHESS.
ARMIES of box that sportively engage,
When Jove through Ethiopia's parched extent
Sixty-four spaces fill the checkered square;
And now both hosts, preparing for the storm
The swarthy on white ground, on sable stands
Then Father Ocean thus ; you see them here,