A Game of Chess

A Game of Chess

The Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne,[14]Glowed on the marble, where the glass Held up by standards wrought with fruited vines From which a golden Cupidon peeped out (Another hid his eyes behind his wing) Doubled the flames of sevenbranched candelabra Reflecting light upon the table as The glitter of her jewels rose to meet it, From satin cases poured in rich profusion; In vials of ivory and coloured glass Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes, Unguent, powdered, or liquid— troubled, confused And drowned the sense in odours; stirred by the air That freshened from the window, these ascended In fattening the prolonged candle-flames, Flung their smoke into the laquearia,[15]Stirring the pattern on the coffered ceiling. Huge sea-wood fed with copper Burned green and orange, framed by the coloured stone, In which sad light a carved dolphin swam. Above the antique mantel was displayed As though a window gave upon the sylvan scene[16]The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king[17]So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale Filled all the desert with inviolable voice And still she cried, and still the world pursues, "Jug Jug" to dirty ears.[18]And other withered stumps of time Were told upon the walls; staring forms Leaned out, leaning, hushing the room enclosed. Footsteps shuffled on the stair. Under the firelight, under the brush, her hair Spread out in fiery points Glowed into words, then would be savagely still.
"My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me. "Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak. "What are you thinking of? What thinking? What? "I never know what you are thinking. Think."
I think we are in rats' alley[19]Where the dead men lost their bones.
"What is that noise?"                              The wind under the door.[20]"What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?"                              Nothing again nothing.                                                                   "Do "You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember "Nothing?"
   I remember Those are pearls that were his eyes.[21]"Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?"                                                                     But O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag—[22]It's so elegant So intelligent "What shall I do now? What shall I do?" I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street "With my hair down, so. What shall we do to-morrow? "What shall we ever do?"                                      The hot water at ten. And if it rains, a closed car at four. And we shall play a game of chess, Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.[23]
When Lil's husband got demobbed, I said— I didn't mince my words, I said to her myself, HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME Now Albert's coming back, make yourself a bit smart. He'll want to know what you done with that money he gave you To get yourself some teeth. He did, I was there. You have them all out, Lil, and get a nice set, He said, I swear, I can't bear to look at you. And no more can't I, I said, and think of poor Albert, He's been in the army four years, he wants a good time, And if you don't give it him, there's others will, I said. Oh is there, she said. Something o' that, I said. Then I'll know who to thank, she said, and give me a straight look. HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME If you don't like it you can get on with it, I said. Others can pick and choose if you can't. But if Albert makes off, it won't be for lack of telling. You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique. (And her only thirty-one.) I can't help it, she said, pulling a long face, It's them pills I took, to bring it off, she said. (She's had five already, and nearly died of young George.) The chemist said it would be alright, but I've never been the same. You are a proper fool, I said. Well, if Albert won't leave you alone, there it is, I said, What you get married for if you don't want children? HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot gammon, And they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it hot - HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME HURRY UP PLEASE ITS TIME Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight. Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight. Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.


[15] Laquearia. V. Aeneid, I. 726:

dependent lychni laquearibus aureis incensi, et noctem flammis funalia vincunt.

Laquearia means a "panelled ceiling." The quote may be translated: "Blazing torches hang from the gold-panelled ceiling, and torches conquer the night with flames." Virgil is describing the banquet given by Dido, queen of Carthage, for Aeneas, with whom she fell in love.

[16] Sylvan scene. V. Milton, Paradise Lost, iv. 140.

[17] V. Ovid, Metamorphoses, vi, Philomela.

[18] Cf. l. 204.

[19] Cf. l. 195..

[20] Cf. Webster: "Is the wind in that door still?"

[21] Cf. l. 37 and l. 48.

[22] That Shakespearian Rag was in published in 1912 by Joseph W. Stern & Company, with words by Gene Buck and Herman Ruby, and music by David Stamper. The chorus goes:

 That Shakesperian rag— Most intelligent, very elegant, That old classical drag Has the proper stuff The line, "Lay on MacDuff" Desdemona was the pampered pet Romeo loves his Juliet And they were some lovers You can bet, and yet I know if they were here today They'd Grizzly Bear in a different way And you'd hear old Hamlet say "To be or not to be" That Shakesperian rag… 

—Infoplease Editors

[23] Cf. the game of chess in Middleton's Women beware Women.