So grave, so cold these corners whence
Slow pieces move upon a slate;
Til dawn they hold the masters tense,
So do two shades each other hate.
The magic rules like spells are cast
Through forms: Homeric rooks, fleet knights,
Thick queens-at-arms as kings stay last,
Aggressive pawns and bishops slight.
And once the players have departed
Consumed by time as if by fire,
The rite will certainly not end.
In the red East a war had started
Whose stage was now the world entire,
A game too of infinite bend.
Faint king, fierce queen, and bishop skew,
Straight rook in league with cunning pawn,
Across the black and white path drawn,
They seek and launch their armored crew.
Not knowing of the telltale hand
Of destiny long since foreseen,
And that these laws adamantine
Subject their will and work to man.
Each player sits imprisoned, squeezed
(Khayyam so said) on other charts,
Of blackest nights and whitest days.
God moves the hand that moves the piece,
But then what god past Him shall start
This game of dust, time, sleep and pain?
Translated by Hadi Deeb