Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
To the Automaton Chess Player
By Hannah F. Gould (1789–1865)
 
THOU wond’rous 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        5
In silver, gold, steel, silk, or leather,
Or human parts, or all together,
    Consists thy brain!
 
When first I view’d thine awful face,
Rising above that ample case        10
Which gives thy cloven foot a place,
    Thy double shoe,
I marvell’d whether I had seen
Old Nick himself, or a machine,
Or something fix’d midway between        15
    The distant two!
 
A sudden shuddering seized my frame;
With feeling that defies a name,
Of wonder, horror, doubt and shame,
    The tout ensemble.        20
I deem’d thee form’d 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,        25
Thy cold and fleshless hand should move
To rest on me, the touch would prove
    Far worse than death;—
That I should be transform’d, and see
Thousands, and thousands, gaze on me,        30
A living, moving thing, like thee,
    Devoid of breath.
 
When busy, curious, learn’d, and wise,
Regard thee with inquiring eyes
To find wherein thy mystery lies,        35
    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!”        40
 
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 ’t would lurk        45
In thine unfeeling breast, Sir Turk,
Performing thus, thine inward work,
    And outward motion?
 
Some whisper that thou ’rt him who fell
From heaven’s high courts, down, down to dwell        50
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,        55
    Close at thy game.
 
Now, though all Europe has confest
That in thy master Maelzel’s breast
Hidden, thy secret still must rest,
    Yet, ’t were great pity,        60
With all our intellectual sight,
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,        65
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,        70
With thee for ever all is over;
    I ’ll quickly blow it!
 
 
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