Seen from Above

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Bolton Hall

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The Chessmen were shaped like men and women, and, as the fingers of Opportunity moved them, I watched the progress of the game. Some of the pieces were black, some were white; some large, some small; but I could see that every one was needed for the game.

Some stood so as to protect others, and some I saw that cared only for themselves; while some joined with their fellows and castled, so as to protect one another. I could see that these were safest.

A Pawn slipped into a square at the edge, and I heard him say how secure he was, when another moved so that he was shut up in his square—then he complained that he was useless in the game. But I could see that his position there kept one square safe for his friends.

The Bishops said that the order of the game was bad. because the Knights skipped squares. "That," said they, "must be the work of the devil." But I could see that otherwise the game could not go on. Many, seeing that both the Knights and Bishops went backward, wailed that progress had come to an end.

Some went gladly to fight or to sacrifice, as the way was clear; but some, dazed by the confusion and lamenting the chaos that they saw, were so disturbed that their bodies warped or split.

Sometimes a piece was lifted from the board, and those about it mourned; and the pieces whispered to one another of the horror of that time when each must go. But I could see that the piece lay quiet in the box till all his fellows had come to him, and then returned to another game.

* * *

So they fought, and played, and loved, and wondered, and made good moves and bad; but I could see that every move worked out the problem of the game.

Source: Bolton Hall, “Seen from Above,” Mind 4, no. 6 (September 1899): 368.