Though his skill was good, his luck was bad

This is a lovely little poem about backgammon (tables) that was first published in 1640. I am not clear on what the game would have involved as the rules have changed but the message is as true today as it was then.


165. Upon John Crop, who dyed by taking a vomit.

Mans life’s a game at Tables, and he may
Mend his bad fortune by his wiser play ;
Death playes against us, each disease and sore
Are blots. if hit, the danger is the more
To lose the game ; but an old stander by
Binds up the blots, and cures the malady,
And so prolongs the game ; John Crop was he
Death in a rage did challenge for to see
His play. the dice are thrown. when first he drinks,
Casts, makes a blot, death hits him with a Sinque :
He casts again, but all in vain, for death
By th’after game did win the prize, his breath.
What though his skill was good, his luck was bad,
For never mortall man worse casting had.
But did not death play false to win from such
As he? No doubt, he bare a man too much.


Penny Magazine published an article on Backgammon in 1841 that included the poem. The text of that article, with a copy of the original illustration, is here.
Penny Magazine Backgammon 1841

The poem was first published in 1640 in Witt’s Recreations, Augmented, with Ingenious Conceites for the wittie , And Merrie Medecines for the Melancholie.

The book is worth browsing for its curiosity value and for the little gems that still delight after so many years.

A PDF of a later publication of the book is below (the poem is to be found on page 265).

The OCR’d text of the volume.–1876_musarum_deliciae__wit_restored__and__wits_recreations_(HC)/1640_wits_recreations.htm

For those with a taste for backgammon history, this extract from The Backgammon Book by Oswald Jacoby and John Crawford is worth reading.


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