We are no more than a moving row
Of Magic Shadow-shapes that come and go
Round with the Sun-illumined Lantern held
In Midnight by the Master of the Show.
FitzGerald, Stanza LXVIII, 4th ed.
In the first edition (1859), FG had written (it was then numbered XLVI):
But in and out, above, about, below,
'Tis nothing but a Magic Shadow-show.
Play'd in a Box whose Candle is the Sun,
Round which we Phantom Figures come and go.
The second edition (1868) established the text as we now read it, except for the second line which read in this edition (it was then Stanza LXXIII):
Of visionary Shapes that come and go ...
Heron-Allen, 103: "This quatrain is translated from O. 108" [select this quatrain]:
این چرخ فلک که درو حیرانیم
فانوس خیال ازو مثالی دانیم
خورشید چراغ دان و عالم فانوس
ما چون صوریم کاندرو گردانیم
in charkh-e falak ke maa daru heyraanim
faanus-e khiyaal azu mesaali daanim
khorshid cheraagh daan o ‘aalam faanus
maa chon sovarim kandaru gardaanim
(the bold u in lines 1, 2 & 4 is the 3rd person pronoun, singular, more familiarly, "او")
This world leaves us numb and befuddled
we see a likeness in the magic-lantern show,
the Sun is candlepower and Earth lanterncase
on which the scenes of life come and go.
This Wheel, amazed at which we gaze below,
Is like a magic lamp in shadow-show;
The Sun the candle is, the world the shade,
Whereon we, phantom figures, come and go.
Saidi, quatrain 63
This wheel of heaven, whereat we're all dismayed,
I liken to a lamp's revolving shade,
The sun the candlestick, the earth the shade,
And men the trembling forms thereon portrayed.
Whinfield, quatrain 110
& FitzGerald, LXIX
But helpless Pieces of the Game He plays
Upon this Chequer-board of Nights and Days;
Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.
FitzGerald, Stanza LXIX, 4th ed.
In the first edition of 1859, FG wrote (it was then Stanza XLIX):
'Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.
The fourth edition text was established in the 1868 edition except for the first line which then read:
Impotent Pieces of the Game He plays ...
Heron-Allen, 103: "This quatrain is translated from O.94." [select this quatrain]
از روی حقیقتی نه از روی مجاز
ما لعبتکانیم فلک لعبتباز
بازیچه همیکنیم بر نطع وجود
رفتیم بصندوق عدم یکیک باز
az ru-ye haqiqati na az ru-ye majaaz
maa lo‘batakaanim o falak lo‘batbaaz
baaziche hamikonim bar nat‘-e vojud
raftim besanduq-e ‘adam yekyek baaz
We puppets dance to tunes of Time we know,
We are puppets in fact, and not for show;
Existence is the carpet where we dance,
So one by one where aught is naught we go.
Govinda Tirtha, Nectar of Grace, II.6
We are but chessmen Player to amuse
(In fact and not in metaphor I muse);
On board of life we play, then one by one
In nihility chest we're laid to snooze.
Saidi, quatrain 72
On the magic-lantern, FitzGerald's note is sufficient, but I also include Heron-Allen's and Saidi's below. They add a bit more. None have knowledge (and neither do I) of magic lanterns in eleventh century (C.E.) Persia so magic-lanterns in India have to make do. FitzGerald's note on Stanza LXVIII reads: "Fánúsi khiyál, a Magic-lanthorn still used in India; the cylindrical Interior being painted with various Figures, and so lightly poised and ventilated as to revolve round the the lighted Candle within."
Saidi's note, p.244-245: "Magic lamp refers to the Chinese lantern now popular in the West. Made of medal (usually brass, bronze or iron), it is globular, cylindrical, square, or hexagonal in shape and has a shade of horn [and so the archaic lant-horn], bladder, talc, glass or oiled paper richly decorated with flowers, characters, or figures. Among them there is a special type, shade of which (being pleated) is collapsible or so designed that a current of air will cause the shade to rotate. Hence the appellation "magic lamp."
Heron-Allen in a footnote, 103: "The editor of the Calcutta Review appends the following note at the foot of Prof. Cowell's article (E.C.) [no date given]. "These lanthorns are very common in Calcutta. They are made of a tall cylinder with figures of men and animals cut out of paper and pasted on it. The cylinder, which is very light, is suspended on an axis, round which it easily turns. A hole is cut near the bottom, and the part cut out is fixed at an angle to the cylinder so as to form a vane. When a small lamp or candle is placed inside, a current of air is produced which keeps the cylinder slowly revolving."
Back to LXIX: why not puppets? Govinda Tirtha's is among several other translations (select this link) where puppets appear instead of chess pieces. I have not investigated the history of puppets, whether hand, string, rod, or shadow. I doubt, however, that lob‘atakaan, as "puppets" would reveal an anachronism.