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Since thow both man and beste doest move,
King Cophetua and the Beggar-Maid, Is a story often alluded to by our old dramatic writers. Shakspeare in his Romeo and Juliet, act ii. sc. I, makes
“Her [Venus's) purblind son and heir, Young Adam* Cupid, he that shot so true,
When King Cophetua loved the beggar-maid.” As the 13th line of the following ballad seems here particularly alluded to, it is not improbable but Shakspeare wrote it shot so trim, which the players or printers, not perceiving the allusion, might alter to true. The former, as being the more humorous expression, seems most likely to have come from the mouth of Mercutio.t
In the 2d Part of Hen. IV. act v. sc. 3, Falstaff is introduced affectedly saying to Pistoll,
“O base Assyrian knight, what is thy news ?
Let king Cophetua know the truth thereof." These lines Dr. Warburton thinks were taken from an old bombast play of King Cophetua. No such play is, I believe, now to be found; but it does not therefore follow that it never existed. Many dramatic pieces are referred to by old writers, which are not now extant, or even men
See above, preface to Song i. Book ii. of this vol. p. 158. + Since this conjecture was first made, it has been discovered that shot so trim was the genuine reading. See Shakspeare, edit. 1793, xiv. 393.
tioned in any list. * In the infancy of the stage, plays were often exhibited that were never printed.
It is probably in allusion to the same play, that Ben Jonson says in his Comedy of Every Man in his Humour, act iii. sc. 4.,
“I have not the heart to devour thee, an' I might be made as rich as King Cophetua." At least there is no mention of King Cophetua's riches in the present ballad, which is the oldest I have met with on the subject.
It is printed from Rich. Johnson's Crown Garland of Goulden Roses, 1612, 12mo. (where it is entitled simply, A Song of a Beggar and a King): corrected by another copy.
I READ that once in Affrica
As poets they did faine :
But did them all disdaine.
The which did cause his paine.
Arte of Eng. Poes. 1589,
See Mere's Wits Treas. fol. 283. pp. 51. 111, 143. 169.
The blinded boy, that shootes so trim,
From heaven downe did hie;
In place where he did lye :
He looketh as he would dye.
But still did it defie ?
Then from the window he did come,
And laid him on his bed.
Within his troubled head :
And not this beggar wed.
care, Or els he would be dead.
And, as he musing thus did lye,
He thought for to devise
That so did 'maze his eyes.
In thee, quoth he, doth rest my life;
The Gods shall sure suffice.
When she the king espies.
The gods preserve your majesty,
The beggers all gan cry:
Our childrens food to buy.
That after them did hye.
his chaine; With shal remaine Till such time as we dye :
For thou, quoth he, shalt be my wife,
And honoured for my queene ;
As shortly shall be seene :
65 Thou shalt
shift thee cleane.
A trim one as I weene.
Thus hand in hand along they walke
Unto the king's pallàce :
This begger doth imbrace :
She was in such amaze.
And my degree's so base.
And when the wedding day was come,
The king commanded strait
Upon the queene to wait.
* Shakspeare (who alludes to this ballad in his Love's Labour Lost, act iv. sc. 1,) gives the Beggar's name Zenelophon, according to all the old editions : but this seems to be a corruption ; for Penelophon, in the text, sounds more like the name of a woman. The story of the King and the Beggar is also alluded to in King Rich. II. act v. sc. 3.