The Final Mate

Sep 10, 2008, 2:00 PM |

    Some of the most appealing chess personages haven't necessarily been the best players.  One of the attributes I find most appealing is the lifelong and selfless commitment to chess that some people have exhibited.

    I've already written two pieces about Mirón James Hazeltine (one, two), but feel compelled to add another. This one, however, will take a different turn.

     Who was Mirón J. Hazeltine?  Let's look at his obituary to find out. (Notice how the obituary dwells on Hazeltine's chess accomplishments over his many other ones.)


this was a reprint of an article from the Brooklyn Eagle in George H. Walcott's Corsair a Chess Periodical  in 1907

     "Profound regret has been caused among chess lovers everywhere bv the announcement of the death at Campion Village, N. H., Sunday, February 24th, of Mirón James Hazeltine, late chess editor of the New York Clipper. The deceased  authority, who was conceded to be one of the brightest minds devoted to the literature of the game, was in his 83rd year. About two years ago the Eagle published his photograph in an interesting group of four octogenarians, the other three being Henry Chadwick and Joseph Bradley, of Brooklyn, and Henry N. Stone, of Ashmont, Mass., all of whom are still as enthusiastic as ever. Bom at Rumney, N. H., on November 13, 1824, Mr. Hazeltine first saw chess played at Amherst College in 1848, and two years later acquired the elements of the game while studying law at Lowell, Mass. In 1854 he joined the New York Chess Club. An all but fatal injury, sustained in the college gymnasium, left him a partial invalid. After four years spent in a law office, Mr. Hazeltine taught a select classical school in New York City for a decade, after which he resided at "The Larches", in Campton Village, N. H. Editorially Mr. Hazeltine has been connected with the New York Saturday Courier, New York Clipper, the Chess Monthly (Fiske's), Porter's Spirit, Macon Ga., Telegraph, Manchester, N. H., Union Democrat, the Enterprise, Muskegon, Mich., Herald, Bayonne, N. J., and Vox Populi, Lowell, Mass. His work on the Clipper extended back to August, 1856, and during all these years he prepared his weekly contributions, barring five occasions, when prevented by accident, with his own hand. One of the most valuable chess libraries in this country was among the veteran's prized possessions."


The Granite State Monthly  also published his obituary in 1907
Mirón J. Hazeltine, a man of literary taste, and a chess authority of national reputation, died at his home in Thornton, February 24. He was born in Rumney, November 13, 1824. He was chess editor of the New York Clipper for more than fifty years, and possessed the most extensive and valuable collection of works on chess in New England. He was a classical scholar of no mean repute and had made a metrical translation of the Greek poet Anacreon.


Mirón J.'s son was Mirón W.  He was also a journalist, though not a chess enthusiast such as is father.


Granite State Monthly   1895
     "Mirón W. Hazeltine was born in New York City, November 30, 1856, received academic education, mainly at the hands of his father, Miron J. Hazeltine of Thornton, and Amherst College.
      December, 1889, he entered the emply of the Grafton County Democrat.  From July, 1881, to January, 1883, he was employed successively on the Lakeside News, Lake Village; and Laconia Democrat, Plymouth, a position Mr. Hazeltine retained until January, 1887, when the paper was sold to T. J. Walker, who merged it into the Plymouth Record.  Remaining with Mr. Walker until 1887, he entered the employ of the Manchester Union, serving in various capacities, including a three years' term as Concord correspondent, where he made an enviable record, until February, 1894, when he joined the Saturday Telegram, being at present time managing editor.  Mr. Hazeltine is serving his second term as clerk and director of the Manchester Press Club. He is married.


Then I came across an article on Hazeltine in the 1895 issue of the British Chess Magazine:

     "The veteran Mirón J. Hazeltine, the doyen of chess editors, is celebrating the publication, on April zoth, of his 2,000th chess problem in the New York Clipper. We say advisedly, is celebrating, because such a shoal of contributions in honour of the event have reached him from his numerous clientele of friends and supporters, that he could not possibly let them all see the light in one number; the publication of the remainder was therefore to go on for two weeks more. The Clipper chess column of April 20th contains a feast of good things. The most prominent feature in it is a large half-length portrait of Mr. Hazeltine himself, together with a condensed biography, from which it appears that he has conducted his present column, without the intermission of one single week, ever since August, 1856. Mr. Hazeltine has edited several other chess columns, magazines, and books, and he possesses a chess library of about 650 volumes, including over too scrap books, and 25 volumes of manuscripts. He was born in 1824, and, owing to an accident when at College, has always been a partial invalid.
     He is a good classical scholar, and holds the position of Justice of the Peace and Notary Public for the State of Massachusetts. The other
principal contents of this memorial and memorable number are : A chess sonnet, by Phania (Mrs. Hazeltine), dedicated to her husband; some lines on Caissa, by Mr. J. Gardner; a curious puzzle (which we re-print), by Mr. Reichhelm; three short games, contributed by Messrs. Elson and Stone:
two problems, composed for the occasion by Mr. Charles A. Gilberg and Dr. Gold ; and last, bul not least, the prize-winning 2000th problem itself. 


     What sparked my interest in this article was mention of Hazeltine's wife, Phania, and her apparent talent at poetry. Another part of the same issue gives a long poem by Phania (actual name, Hanna M. Bryant Hazeltine).
     Before presenting the poem, The Final Mate, below is another, more curious poem about Mirón and Pahnia that I found in:

Poems and Chess Problems   1882
By John Augustus Miles

[only elsewhere did I learn that this poem, written by A. Z. Huggins, was originally titled, Nuptial Renaissance : a poem written for the occasion of the celebration of the silver wedding of Miron J. Hazeltine & Harriet Bryant]



To Mirón and Phania; on the day of their Silver Wedding. *

             MIRON AND PHANIA, on your bridal day, 
             In joyful strains Caïssa's votaries sing. 
             Round your dear heads may Love a halo fling 
             Of silver light ; in emblematic ray, 
             Now lustres five have gently passed away. 
             And may succeeding years fresh pleasures bring ; 
             Nor in your bosoms leave a single sting, 
             Down Life's bright path while onward still you stray. 
             PHANIA, sweet muse of Chess, be ever thine 
             Happy to dwell in the far Western land : 
             And with your Mirón hand and heart t'entwine, 
             Never to part, till you shall, one day, stand 
             In grim Death's presence ; (be his advent late !) 
             And He, relentless, gives the Final Mate.

July, 1878. *
On the 25th of July, 1878, was celebrated in America, the double Silver Wedding of Mirón, (J. Hazeltine, Esq., author of " Brevity and Brilliancy in Chess, &c.") with his accomplished wife Phania, authoress of " The Final Mate," and other poems ; and also with Caïssa the goddess of Chess.


                                            THE FINAL MATE.
                                  By PHANIA (Mrs. Mirón J. Hazeltine).
"Obey thy genius, for a minister it is unto the throne of Fate" - Festus.

The sweet-brier lifted its graceful head,
Its spicy odour around was shed,
The window shading, filling the room
Of the village pastor with sweet perfume ;
The while he studied his Latin and Greek,
And wrote his sermons from week to week ;
Received the visits of Norah Brown,
Or battled at Chess with Doctor Drown. 
Poor Norah Brown, with her crutch and cane, 
Came daily hobbling along the lane,
In the pastor's study an hour to spend,
 'Mong books and prints he would kindly lend,
 The crippled, suffering child to please,
Who knew so little of pleasure or ease.
A bright June morning.   In shining dew
The sweet-brier sparkled, while through and through,
'Mid leaves and blossoms, a humming-bird
With darting flashes the dew-drops stirred ;
Now sipping sweets on its well-poised wing,
And then away like a fairy thing.
But parson Lynch neither saw nor heard
The blooming brier or the humming bird ;
As with mind enrapt, and head bent down,
He studied Gambits with Doctor Drown.
With toiling footsteps along the lane,
Came Norah Brown with her crutch and cane ;
And, drawing near to the open door,
She sees what she never had seen before.
Poor little Norah, with wondering eyes,
Observed the game in a mute surprise ;
Forgetting picture — forgetting scroll —
By the strife absorbed to her inmost soul ;
She scanned each movement of piece or pawn,
As though a fortune was staked thereon.
How long she watched them she never knew ;
But when the doctor at length withdrew,
Approached the parson in bashful way,
And begged him to teach her the wondrous play.
Then every day, through the shady lane,
Came little Norah with crutch and cane ;
But books and pictures unheeded lay,
While she and the pastor at Chess would play.
The bloom of spring could not ever last —
The apple-blossom to fruitage passed ;
The fields were glowing with golden grain,
The gorgeous summer was on the wane ;
As bloom and brightness oft bring decay,
So surely was Norah passing away.
Then ceased her steps through the graveled lane ;
She kept her couch through the days of pain ;
But brave in spirit, the men and board,
Were placed by her side, and she deeply pored
O'er prowess of Queen or belted Knight,
O'er Rook or Bishop in fresh delight.
The face of Norah grew thin and old,
As the days passed on into winter's cold ;
And though her features oft wore a smile,
A tinge of sorrow was there the while.
The parson's footsteps along the lane
Now echoed, for Norah's crutch and cane
Were idly leaning against the wall,
In useless silence to wait her call.
Her visits missing, the pastor said
He gladly came to her patient bed,
To talk of her coming happiness,
And lighten the hours by playing chess.
The snows of winter had come and gone,
The grass was springing upon the lawn,
The dark, bare stalks of the sweet-brier grew
In wondrous beauty revived anew ;
Again the humming bird bent to sup
The honey stored in its glowing cup ;
Again was the village preacher's room
With the spices filled of its rich perfume.
The dew-drops glistened along the land
The good man traversed in moody vein ;
He knew these visits would soon be o'er,
For Norah was nearing the other shore.
Of hopeful lessons the pastor read,
One morning sitting by Norah's bed ;
He pictured regions of love and delight,
Where sickness, sorrow nor pain would blight,
But joys enduring, in boundless store
Of perfect life are hers evermore.
" Tis beautiful all ! I oft'time dream
Of the city of God by the golden stream ;
Of bowers of light with no taint of distress —
 But, tell me if there we may still play Chess ? "
" My child, enjoyment will there be given
Which suits the mind, or it were not Heaven ;
We do not know the dress or employ,
In future homes of enduring joy,
But this we know ; all forms of delight
Expand the soul and rejoice the sight."
" Now, bring the board ! One lingering sup
Of pleasure, ere earth-life is swallowed up
In the vast Unknown, whose precincts lie
Somewhere, we know not, in earth or sky."
Long time o'er the game entranced they hung,
The mind was busy, but mute the tongue;
Each played with that careful earnestness
Which looks for a sure, complete success.
The thin, white fingers of Norah Brown
O'er the Chess-board stray like flecks of down ;
Or here, or thither, each piece is sent
On mission of swift destruction bent :
Advance she turns to a quick retreat,
 Till the preacher's doom is a sure defeat.
With painful effort from off her bed
Has Norah managed to lift her head ;
She eagerly seizes a sombre Knight,
Her features glowing with wondrous light,
And plants it down with exultant ring,
A final mate to the parson's King.
" I've won! I've won ! " The invalid lies
Back on the pillow. Out from her eyes
The light is fading ; the pile lips part —
A gasp, a quiver, a throb of the heart,
A sigh, -as of pain, a short quick breath—
Earth life is ended — conquered is death.
The sweet-brier still is bright in its bloom,
While o'er the garden and through the room
 Its breath is wafted upon the air,
Like spicy incense of morning prayer ;
And still the humming-bird, darting through,
From its branches shakes the pearly dew ;
While often the pastor, on quiet days,
At the royal game with the doctor plays :
But the little form that with crutch and cane
So often hobbled along the lane
Is laid away in a hopeful rest,
With white hands folded across the breast ;
Nor winter's tempest, nor summer's sun
Disturbs its sleep — she has won ! she has won !

                                                 -Hartford Times (originally)