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VIDA'S GAME OF CHESS,

AS IT HAS BEEN FOUND TRANSCRIBED IN THE HANDWRITING

OF

OLIVER GOLDSMITH,

NOW FIRST PRINTED (1854) FROM THE ORIGINAL MS.

IN THE POSSESSION OF

BOLTON CORNEY, ESQ.

ADVERTISEMENT.

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.

TRANSLATED.

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.
For you 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 parched 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
Claimed 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 checkered square;
Eight in each rank eight equal limits share.
Alike their form, but different 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 colors hurrying to the fight :
On which so oft, with silent sweet surprise,
The Nymphs and Nereids used to feast their eyes,
And all the neighbors of the hoary deep,
When calm the sea, and winds were lulled to sleep.
But see, the mimic heroes tread the board ;
He said, and straightway from an urn he poured
The sculptured box, that neatly seemed to ape
The graceful figure of a human shape : —
Equal the strength and number of each foe,
Sixteen appeared 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 furthest 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 armor known,
Chooses the color that is like her own.
Then the young Archers, two that snowy-white
Bend the tough yew, and two as black as night
(Greece called them Mars's favorites 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 armor 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 colors 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.

Then Father Ocean thus ; you see them here,
Celestial powers, what troops, what camps appear.
Learn now the several orders of the fray,
For even 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.

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