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Notes on The Game of Kings

Page numbers are taken from the following editions: G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, 1961); Century Publishing Co. (London, 1982); and Vintage Books' trade paperback.  Numbers in brackets after an entry refer to sources listed in the bibliography. Translations are mine unless otherwise noted.

References are in the order they appear in the book.  To search for any item, hit control-F and type the word.

[Opening Gambit: Threat to a Castle]     [Taking en Passant]    [Blindfold Play]    [More Blindfold Play: The Queen Moves too Far]
[Several Moves by a Knight]     [Castling]  [Forced Move for a Minor Piece]     [A Variety of Mating Replies]

Part 1 The Play for Jonathan Crouch
Chapter II: Blindfold Play - pp. 59 to 73 - September 15-16, 1547
Page Item
59 Blindfold play
Playing chess without sight of the board.
59 The Warden - a person responisble for security.
60 collop (Scots) - a slice of meat
60 postern - a small private entrance or gate, usually in the back or side of a building
60 skiff - a small boat for rowing or sailing, usually by only one person.
60 Divine Calypso falling on her prey - The Odyssey by Homer, Book V.  Calypso was the  Fairy queen of the island of Ogygia (Gozo), who held Ulysses there for seven years. [Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.] (5)
60 magnifico (Italian) - a person of high position
60 What to Sym was an English magnifico... took, bearlike...

Possibly a reference to Callisto,a   nymph of Diana, who had two sons by Jupiter, whom Juno turned into bears.  Jupiter made them into the constellations of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. - from Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.

61 cock-a-leeky - soup made of chicken and leeks
62 Tyne
62 aiglettes - the metal tags of a lace or string; an ornamental tag or other metal appendage; anything dangling on the clothing.  (1)
62 the Old Man of Storr - a rock needle on the Island of Skye.  There's a picture of it here.  See also here.
62 the Cauldron of Hell
62 Like the spider, I'll try.
- Reference to Robert the Bruce's spider.  Robert the Bruce (1253-1304) was a Scots king who, while fighting for Scotland's freedom, was inspired to try again because of the patient industry of a spider he was observing.  The story is told in Sir Walter Scott's notes to Lord of the Isles, no. XXVIII. (5)
62 That lightlie comes will lightlie ga... 
- "The Three Priests of Peblis", l. 227, in Laing's Early Popular Poetry of Scotland. (5)

Easy come, easy go. - my translation

63 Without pitie, hangèd to be, and waver with the wind.
- froma  poem by Wililam Dunbar (1465-1520)

- Percy's Reliques, "The Nut-Brown Maid". (5)

63 My beard is full young yet to make a purfle of.
- Sir Thomas Malory (d. 1471), Le Morte d'Arthur, Book One: Merlin, p. 43 of the Oxford edition. Also in Percy's Reliques, introduction to "King Ryence's Challenge". (5)

purfle - to ornament the edge of, e.g., with embroidery or inlay. (1)

63 defend me from death and horrible maims

Jesu defende us from deathe and horryble maymes.
- Sir Thomas Malory (d. 1471), Le Morte d'Arthur, Book One: Merlin, p. 24 of the Oxford edition. (5)

63 For gold, for gude; for wage or yet for wed.
- The Three Priests of Peblis, line 829, in Laing's Early Popular Poetry of Scotland. (5)
63 dourly - grimly, sullenly.  Rhymes with 'poorly'.  (1)
63 The office, but doubt, is callit Deid.
 - The Three Priests of Peblis, line 1243, in Laing's Early Popular Poetry of Scotland. (5)
63 Deceit deceiveth and shall be deceived.

Dyscyt disceyeth, and shal be disceyved. 
  -Found in Secular Lyrics of the 14th and 15th Centuries, Robbin, ed. #107,    A Short verse of Moral Advice (Ms. Hatton 73) (5)

Deceit deceives, and shall be deceived.  - my translation

63 the Nibelungleid - The Nibelungenleid, a heroic romantic fantasy German epic written before 1200,  based on events of the 5th or 6th centuries, which features a treasure hoard lost at the bottom ot the Rhine River.  This was popularized by Wagner in opera as "The Ring Cycle" in the 18th century.
64 kist (Scots) - chest (1)
64 This officer but doubt is callit Deid. 
 - "The Three Priests of Peblis", L. 1243, in Laing:  Early Popular Poetry of Scotland. (5)
64 as the poet said, words is but wind, but dunts is the devil
- Fergusson, Scottish Proverbs.  (see Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs.)  Also Skelton: Magnificence, l. 581, "Thy words be but wind." (5)
64 Pleasant but precarious, like the gentleman who sat under palm trees feeding fruit to a lion.

From the "bustan al-rohbaan" (The Monks' Garden), also referred to in English as the "Paradise of the Desert Fathers". Bustan al-rohbann is not a single book,rather it is a collection of sayings and accounts written by and about the Desert Fathers of Egypt.   This particular story goes as flollows:

We came near to a tree, led by our kindly host, and there we stumbled upon a lion. At the sight of him my guide and I quaked, but the saintly old man went unfaltering on and we followed him. The wild beast - you would say it was at the command of God - modestly withdrew a little way and sat down, while the old man plucked the fruit from the lower branches. He held out his hand, full of dates; and up the creature ran and took them as frankly as any tame animal about the house; and when it had finished eating, it went away. We stood
watching and trembling; reflecting as well we might what valour of faith was in him and what poverty of spirit in us.
 - from "The Monks' Garden"

64 I am but an mad man that thou hast here met.
- The Tale of Rauf Coilzear, line 407, in Laing's Early Popular Poetry of Scotland. (5)
64 -- I do you pray, cast that name from you away.  Call you Hector or Oliver... Sir Porteous... Amadas ... Perdiccas ... Florent.
- Roswall and Lillian, line 367, et. seq., found in Laing's Early Popular Poetry of Scotland. (5)
65 Hector - Greek hero who was killed by Achilles in the Trojan war.
65 Oliver (Olivier) - French hero of the 9th century Chanson de Roland.
65 Amadas - The hero of the French romance Amadas et Ydoine, who temporarily loses his memory in the throes of lovesickness.
65 Perdiccas - Macedonian general and colleage of Alexander the Great, who became rules of Babylon.
65 Florent - The legendary St. Florent killed a dragon which haunted the Loire.
65 I am as I am, and so I will be; but how that I am, none knoweth truly... Disdain me not without desert!  Foresake me not till I deserve, nor hate me till I offend.
- Sir Thomas Wyatt (1520-1554) The Court of Venus, a collection of songs by various authors. (5)
65 Li rosignox est mon père, qui chante sur le ramée, el plus haut boscage.
La seraine, ele est ma mère, qui chante en la mer salée, el plus haut rivage...
- From a poem beginning "Volez vos que je vos chant/Un son d'amours avenant."  Found in Mory, La Fleur de la Poesie Française, p. 248, with different spelling.  Also in Abbott, French Medieval Lyrics. (5)  For the full poem, see here.

The nightingale is my father, who sings in the branch, and high woodland,
The siren is my mother, who sings in the salty sea and high shore. - translated by Nancy Wright.  (8)

65 the Socratean method - dialectic, procedure by question and answer (Oxford English Dictionary)
66 Deceit deceiveth and shall be deceived.  [see also p. 58, 63]
Dyscyt disceyeth, and shal be disceyved. 
  -Found in Secular Lyrics of the 14th and 15th Centuries, Robbin, ed. #107,    A Short verse of Moral Advice (Ms. Hatton 73) (5)

Deceit deceives, and shall be deceived.  - my translation

66 O mixt and subtle Christian.
- Martial, in Gavin Douglas, The Palace of Honour, pt. 2
66 I am honest and good, and not ane word could lie.
- Henryson. Testament of Cresseid, description of Mercury. (5)
66 you've lived on Hymettus on honey and larks' tongues - Hymettus was a mountain in Attica, famous for its honey [Brewer's]
66 Ho, ho: say you so;
Oh, Oh, say you so
Money shall make my mare to go.
- Opie, Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, p. 296. (5)
67 Kilbucho - a parish on the west border of Peebles-shire
67 Hartree
67 Thankerton - a parish of Lanrkshire.  You can see it on a map here.
67 St. Colme's Inch - island in the Firth of Forth
67 shinty (Scots) - a game similar to hockey
68 hop, like St. Vitus
A reference to St. Vitus' Dance, Sydenham's chorea, a disease which causes jerking motions.
68 Would serve a cat in a bowl eight days.
68 sforzando (Italian) - in music, strongly accenting a note or chord
68 diminuendo (Italian) - in music,  "diminishing' - i.e. gradually getting softer
68 En mai au douz tens nouvel
Que raverdissent prael,
Oi soz un arbroisel
Chanter le rosignolet,
Saderala don!
Tant fet bon
Dormir lez le buissonet.

Saderala don!
Tant fet bon
Dormir lez le buissonet.
- C.C. Abbott, Early Medieval French Lyrics, p. 52.

In May in the sweet new season
When fields turn green again,
There in a little tree
The nightingale sings
Sederala don!
All is well,
They sleep in the little bush.

Sederala don!
All is well,
They sleep in the little bush.
- translated from the French by Nancy Wright (8)

68 Sang School (Scots) -  ' Song school'
68 crochets - in music, quarter-notes. (a quarter the  time value of the semibreve)
68 When clerics sing like little birds
69 estampie - A type of tune for dancing, with or without words. In its alternation of several strains, each followed by the same refrain, it resembles the rondeau. It belonged to the life of Southern Europe in the 12th to 15th
centuries, and was apparently one of the forms associated with the art of the troubadors.  (Oxford Companion  to Music)
69 O Dermyne, O Donnall, O Dochardy droch
- Richard Holland, Buke of the Howlat.
69 The Frogge would a wooing ride
Humble-dum, humble-dum
Sword and buckler by his side
Tweedle, tweedle twino.

When he was upon his high horse set
Humble-dum, bumble-dum
His boots they shone as black as jet --

- from "The Marriage of the Frog and the Mouse", Opie, Oxford Dicitonary of Nursery Rhymes. (5)

70 What lay at the bottom of wells? Cats; and kelpies; and curses; and cures for warts ... and Truth, of course.

Kelpie - spirit of the waters in the form of a horse in Scottish fairy tales.

The cat could be from the Nursery Rhyme:
        Ding dong bell, Pussy's in the well,
        Who put her in? Little Johnie Thin,
        Who pulled her out? Little Tommy Stout....

"Truth lies at the bottom of the well" - this has been attributed, variously, to Heraclites, Cleanthes, Democritus the Derider and others. (Wordsworth Dict. of Phrase and fable)

70 Swear me God from top to toe in one breath if you will
70 Admirably just, and justly damning
70 Se'l ser un si, scrivero'n rima;
Se'l ser un no, amici come prima.
- see Reese, Music in the Renaissance, rev. ed., p. 318

If it be 'yes', I'll write a poem.
If it be 'no', we'll be friends as we were. - my translation.

71 furca and fossa - Gallows and ditch. (5)  [See the entry in Brewer's here.]
71 the wonders of Mandeville 
Sir John Mandeville (1300 - 1373) English explorer who published extravagant written accounts of his supposed travels
72 Castlemilk - a town in in Strathclyde, Scotland
72 Clydesdale - a place in Lanark, South Lanarkshire, Scotland
72 billhook - concave battle-axe with al ong wooden handle (1)
72 hags - soft place in the moor or firm place in a bog
73 Happier than Augustus, better than Trajan

In late antiquity, Augustus and Trajan became the yardsticks for success, and the goal of new emperors was to be "felicior Augusto, melior Traiano" ("Happier than Augustus, better than Trajan"). From "Roman (The High Empire)".  Both were Roman Emperors; Augustus' reign (43 B.C. to 14 A.D.) was known as the time of Pax Romana  Marcus Ulpius Trajanus (c. 53-117) was notable for his campaigns against the Decians and Parthians, and for his buildings and public works. (2)

73 like the elephants of Mauretania, my friends are foregathering
"The elephants of Mauritania foregather to perform mysterious rites at the new moon." - Pliny (62-113), Natural History, Book VIII, section 1. (5)
73 Shahrazad - Storytelling on the collection of Arabian stories, 1001 Nights.


Partial Bibliography

(1) The Chambers Dictionary (Chambers, 1994) 
(2) Chambers Biographical Dictionary, ed. by Magnus Magnusson (Edinburgh, 1993) 
(3) The Dorothy Dunnett Companion by Elspeth Morrison (London, 1994) 
(4) The Oxford Essential World Atlas, 2nd ed., 1998. 
(5) MS of notes made by Carol Gleason, cited with permission. 
(6) Everyman's Dictionary of Non-Classical Mythology by Egerton Sykes (London, 1965) 
(7) The Reader's Digest Great Encyclopaedic Dictionary (Oxford, 1965) 
(8) A Translation Guide to The Lymond Chronicles by Nancy Wright (Privately published, 2001)

With special thanks to the many people on many Dunnett mailing lists who have been of great help and encouragement.


Errors in the Dunnett Novels
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The Game of Kings
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