Hannah F Gould

Address to the Automaton Chess Player

Thou wondrous cause of speculation,
Of deep research and cogitation,
Of many a head and many a nation,
While all in vain
Have tried their wits to answer whether,
In silver, gold, steel, silk or leather,
Or human parts, or all together,
Consists thy brain!
When first I viewed thine awful face,
Rising above that ample case,
Which gives thy cloven foot a place,
Thy double shoe,
I marvelled whether I had seen
Old Nick himself, or a machine,
Or something fixed midway between
The distant two!
A sudden shuddering seized my frame;
With feeling that defies a name,
Of wonder, horror, doubt and shame,
The tout ensemble,
I deemed thee formed with power and will;
My hair rose up-my blood stood still,
And curdled with a fearful chill,
Which made me tremble.
I thought if, e'en within thy glove,
Thy cold and fleshless hand should move
To rest on me, the touch would prove
Far worse than death;
That I should be transformed, and see
Thousands and thousands gaze on me,
A living, moving thing, like thee,
Devoid of breath.
When busy, curious, learned and wise
Regard thee with inquiring eyes
To find wherein thy mystery lies,
On thy stiff neck,
Turning thy head with grave precision,
Their optic light and mental vision
Alike defying, with decision,
Thou giv'st them "check!"
Some say a little man resides
Between thy narrow, bony sides;
And round the world within thee rides:
Absurd the notion!
For what's the human thing 'twould lurk
In thine unfeeling breast, Sir Turk,
Performing thus thine inward work,
And outward motion?
Some whisper that thou'rt he, who fell
From Heaven's high courts down, down, to dwell
In that deep place of sulphury smell
And lurid flame.
Thy keeper then deserves a pension,
For seeking out this wise invention
To hold thee harmless, in detention,
Close at thy game.
Now, though all Europe has confessed,
That in thy master Maelzel's breast
Hidden, thy secret still must rest,
Yet, 'twere great pity,
With all our intellectual light,
That none should view thy nature right,-
But thou must leave in fog and night
Our keen-eyed city.
Then just confide in me, and show,
Or tell, how things within thee go!
Speak in my ear so quick and low
None else shall know it.
But, mark me! if I should discover
Without thine aid, thy secret mover,
With thee for ever all is over,
I'll quickly blow it!