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An Ancient Chess Set by Jean Ingelow


This poem titled "An Ancient Chess Set" tells a story of an Indian King who stayed in his land despite all the evil that has happened within his country. The poem starts by calling him "haply", yet goes on to tell of how great he truly is. He is happy with his wife, pleased Prester John, and stays in his land despite all the pain and suffering which has happened.

From the title, we can conclude that the Rajah is the King, his wife the queen, Preseter John the Bishop, the tent his Rook, and his shepherds are his pawns. The Knights could possibly be either the lamps or the fact that it is night in the story.


An Ancient Chess Set

Haply some Rajah first in ages gone
Amid his languid ladies finger'd thee,
While a black nightingale, sun-swart as he,
Sang his one wife, love's passionate orison:
Haply thou mayst have pleased old Prester John
Among his pastures, when full royally
He sat in tent--grave shepherds at his knee--
While lamps of balsam winked and glimmered on.

What dost thou here? Thy masters are all dead.
My heart is full of ruth and yearning pain
At sight of thee, O king that hast a crown
Outlasting theirs, and tells of greatness fled
Through cloud-hung nights of unabated rain
And murmur of the dark majestic town.

Published in 1898.

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