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Chess Morality VI: Promotion

All these receive their birth from other things;
But from himself the Phoenix only springs
Self-born, begotten by the parent flame
In which he burn'd, another and the same,
Once his five centuries of life fulfill'd...
--Ovid, 'Metamorphoses, Book XV'

To Knight, Rook, Falcon or Bishop, the Pawn
Promotes on reaching the eighth and final rank,
Like unto a classic battle line redrawn
By shifting fields the forces would outflank,
A point of no return, a sharp selection
Of the right piece driving the game's direction.

Pawn's natural form uprears, biting the dust
The human shape confounding into Horse:
Headlong neck stetched, fingers joined, nails down thrust
To rounded hoofs, harden like horns, perforce
The mouth enlarged, steed's fur flies o'er smoothed shoulder--
Beauty in the eye of the beholder!

Which piece to pick not etched in verse and chapter:
The more betimes Falcon's looming to call on,
Chess Foot Soldier's reaching for the Raptor
Whereof itself each limb grows wing or talon,
Whose face's contorting sharp hooked beak transmutes,
The twain's shared predatory attributes.

By turns thereof the Elephant's expressed,
The piece renamed Bishop, Runner or Fool,
Its rationale no different from the rest
Reliant on no hypermodern school,
Belike Chesse proverb 'Elephant may bathe'
Or like a transformation in the lathe.

To tesselated Tower made of stone
Pawn stiffens while yet hanging in mid-air,
A Castle by and by, all creatures known
A helix in the cell to which they're heir--
Chesse unto Chess, from Phoenix unto Phoenix
From chimeral horizon unto zenith.

George William Duke 2002

Written by George William Duke
WWW page created: March 13, 2002.