Proverb: When the game is over, the King and the pawn go back in the same box (version in 1781)
adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jan 8 18:00:11 UTC 2012
Nigel Rees of the BBC Radio Program "QUOTE ... UNQUOTE" has posted the
following query on his website:
Q4298 'When the game is over, the King and the pawn go back in the
same box' - is usually described as an Italian proverb. Is it?
[End query dated July 27, 2011]
While searching for information about this saying I found that it was
labeled a Persian proverb, a Chinese proverb, an Irish saying, and an
The query does not indicate what is currently known, and does not
provide any benchmark for improvement.
I was unable to find the saying in the Yale Book of Quotations or in
Oxford Reference Online (but the search function for Oxford Reference
Online is confusing and difficult for me to use effectively. So it
might be in that database somewhere).
Here is a 1781 citation that contains the core idea of the saying but
is somewhat wordy.
Cite: 1781, "Chinese Tales or The Wonderful Adventures of the Mandarin
Fum-Hoam, Related By Himself, To Divert The Sultana, Upon the
Celebration of Her Nuptials", Written in French by M. Gueulette,
Translated by The Rev. Mr. Stackhouse, Volume The Second, Chapter:
Evening XL, Page 96-97, Printed for Harrison and Co., London. (Google
Books full view)
[Begin compressed excerpt]
... the kings, the queens, the knights, the fools, and simple pawns
... when once the game is over, and the chessboard shut, they are all
thrown promiscuously together into the same box, ...
[End compressed excerpt]
[Begin extended excerpt]
The king, with whom I had this discourse, was satisfied with the truth
of it. 'You are in the right,' said he to me; 'and it is with very
great justice that one of our poets has elegantly compared all kind of
men to the pieces wherewith we play at chess: some act the kings, the
queens, the knights, the fools, and simple pawns. There is a vast
difference between them, while they are in motion; but when once the
game is over, and the chessboard shut, they are all thrown
promiscuously together into the same box, without any sort of
distinction. Death does the very same thing: kings, emperors,
merchants, slaves, warriors, men of the robe, and of the revenue all
then become equal; and there is nothing but our good works, and
charity towards our neighbours, that will give us the superiority. Let
us therefore, always be doing commendable actions; for they bring with
them an inward satisfaction, which the wicked never enjoy.
[End extended excerpt]
Please check for typos before using this information. Thanks.
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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