king cophetua

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By Don Marquis
From “Sonnets to a Red-Haired Lady (By a Gentleman with a Blue Beard), and Famous Love Affairs,” 1922

Cophetua was a merry King,
And slightly sentimental;
His morals were (if anything)
What some call “Oriental.”

Zenelophon, the Beggar Goil,
Was innocent and careful;
She had been reared to Honest Toil
By parents poor and prayerful,

For Papa peddled lemonade
While Mamma laundered laundry,
And she had been a solder maid
Within a muzzle foundry;

But, oh! the foreman of the staff
Had tried to Make Advances . . .
The Villain used to smirk and chaff
And ask her out to dances! . . .

And so she quit the Hellish Place
And went salvationarming,
A careful smile upon her face
So innocent and charming.

While begging in a Beer Saloon
Right opposite the palace
She saw the King one afternoon
Drink chalice after chalice —

(He dallied daily with the Jug,
He hit the pipe and gambled
He introduced the bunny-hug
As round his realm he rambled) —

Eftsoons the Monarch, reeling by
Imperially laden,
Remarked, iniquitous and sly,
“Pray, buss me, Beggar Maiden!”

Not I! ” she cried, ” I’d rather go
Right back to making muzzles
Than kiss a King that roisters so
And gambles, flirts and guzzles!”

The Regal Cut-up, in a mood
Majestically reckless,
Then offered her a samite snood,
A duchy and a necklace.

“Oh, keep your Royal Gauds,” she said,
“And buss your legal spouses!
I won’t kiss none until I’m wed,
Especial if they’re souses!”

With that he laid his sceptre down
Beneath her footsy-wootsies —
“Oh, wed me, and I’ll fling muh crown
Before them pretty tootsies!”

“Oh King!” says she, “you have some queens!”
Says he, “They’re soon beheaded!”
That day his headsman reaped their beans,
The next the King was wedded.

And Mrs. King Cophetua made
All parties quit their vices,
And Papa’s private lemonade
Soon rose to fancy prices,

And Mamma laundered for the King
As happy as a linnet — 
Virtue always wins, I sing,
If Wisdom’s mingled in it!

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