Monday, December 20, 2010

Be the chess player, not the chess piece

The chessmen are as rigid on their chessboard
as those life-sized terra-cotta warriors whose vows
to their emperor with bridle, shield and sword
were sworn by a chorus that has lost its voice;
no echo in that astonishing excavation.
Each soldier gave an oath, each gave his word
to die for his emperor, his clan, his nation,
to become a chess piece, breathlessly erect
in shade or crossing sunlight, without hours -
from clay to clay and odorlessly strict.
If vows were visible they might see ours
as changeless chessmen in the changing light
on the lawn outside where bannered breakers toss
and the palms gust with music that is time's
above the chessmen's silence. Motion brings loss.
A sable blackbird twitters in the limes.
- poem number one from White Egrets (2010) by Derek Walcott.

[NB: Christmas Special Service this week at The S&BCB - we'll be publishing each and every day.]


Jonathan B said...

Did Pam Ayres write anything about chess?

Tom Chivers said...

No idea. Never read any of her. I have to admit I did find her very likable on QI though. James Blunt, Pam Ayres... TV definitely makes you smarter.