Cophetua was an African King. He was known for lack of sexual attraction towards any woman. But one day while looking out of the palace window he witnesses a young beggar Penelophon, who was without clothes. Struck by love at first sight, Cophetua decides, that he will either have the beggar as his wife or commit suicide.
Walking out into the street he scatters coins for the beggars to gather and when Penelophon comes forward, he tells her that she is to be his wife. She agrees and becomes the queen, and soon loses all trace of her former poverty and low class. The couple lives a quiet life but are much loved by their people. Eventually, they die and are buried in the same tomb.
Much has been written about ‘King Cophetua and the beggar maid’ in English literature by various authors and poets. To quote a few:
In D.H. Lawrence’s novel Sons and Lover, Paul sees Miriam’s well-worn clothes as, “like the romantic rags of King Cophetua’s beggar-maid.”
Agatha Christie uses the phrase “Cophetua syndrome” in her novel The Body in the Library, to refer to the case of an elderly upper-class Englishman who becomes infatuated with a working-class girl, albeit in a fatherly rather than sexual way. Christie also references Cophetua in her novel Crooked House.
That brings me to the point. That a human heart is very simple and unpredictable. It can fall for anyone. In my own life I’ve see people falling to Cophetua syndrome.
By Kamlesh Tripathi
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GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE
(Archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)
ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY
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AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES
(Launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2014)
REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD
(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. Book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)
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