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In joye yt maks our mirthe abounde,
In woe yt cheres our hevy sprites;
By musickes pleasaunt swete delightes :
The lyfe, the soul therein doth joye;
In seas, whom pyrats would destroy,
Even as the sterne dothe rule the shippe !
To comforte manne, whom cares would nippe !
VI. King Cophetua and the Beggar-Maid is a story often alluded to by our old dramatic writers. Shakspeare in his Romeo and Juliet, act ü. sc. 1, makes Mercutio say,
- “Her (Venus's] purblind son and heir,
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.?
In the 2nd 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."
1 See above, preface to Song i. Book ii. of this vol. p. 106, 107.
2 Since this conjecture was first made, it has been discovered that shot so trim was the genuine reading.–See Shakspeare, edit. 1793, xiv. 393.
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 mentioned 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
A princely wight did raine,
As poets they did faine.
But did them all disdaine.
The which did cause his paine.
From heaven downe did hie,
In place where he did lye:
But still did it defie?”
3 See Mere's Wits Treas. fol. 283. Arte of Eng. Poes. 1589, pp. 51, 111, 143, 169.
Then from the window he did come,
And laid him on his bed ;
Within his troubled head.
And not this beggar wed.
Or els he would be dead.
And as he musing thus did lye,
He thought for to devise
That so did 'maze his eyes.
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.
Till such time as we dye. “For thou," quoth he, “shalt be my wife,
And honoured for my queene;
With thee I meane to lead my life,
As shortly shall be seene :
Thou shalt go shift thee cleane.
A trim one as I weene.
Unto the king's pallàce:
This begger doth embrace.
She was in such amaze.
And my degree so base.”
The king commanded strait
Upon the queene to wait.
Which she did weare of late.
Ver. 90, i. e. tramped the streets. 4 Shakespeare (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.
Here you may read Cophetua,
Through long time fancie-fed,
The begger for to wed :
In storie, as we read.
As to that king it did.
As writers sheweth plaine.
Their death to them was paine.
To every princes realme.5
V. 105, Here the poet addresses himself to his mistress.
V. 112, sheweth was anciently the plur. numb. SAs ingenious friend thinks the two last stanzas should change place.
Take thy Old Cloak about Thee is supposed to have been originally a Scottish ballad. The reader here has an ancient copy in the English idiom, with an additional stanza (the 2d) never before printed. This curiosity is preserved in the Editor's folio MS., but not without corruptions, which are here removed by the assistance of the Scottish edit. Shakspeare in his Othello, act ii., has quoted one stanza, with some variations, which are here adopted : the old MS. readings are however given in the margin.