“Were I a king…” — “Had I no eyes…”

 

Were I a king I might command content;

Were I obscure unknown would be my cares,

And were I dead no thoughts should me torment,

Nor words, nor wrongs, nor love, nor hate, nor fears;

A doubtful choice of these things which to crave,

A kingdom or a cottage or a grave.

– Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, written before 1586 – the year of the death of Philip Sidney, who had “replied” to Oxford; unsigned in Song and Psalms, 1594, published by John Mundy … six lines, ten beats per line (ababcc)

Had I no eyes but ears, my ears would love

That inward beauty and invisible.

Or were I deaf, thy outward parts would move

Each part in me that were but sensible.

Though neither eyes, nor ears, to hear nor see,

Yet should I be in love by touching thee.

– William Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis, 1593, lines 433-438; published by Richard Field … six lines, ten beats per line (ababcc)

So who copied whom?

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WERE I a king I might command content;

Were I obscure unknown would be my cares,

AND WERE I DEAD, no thoughts should me torment,

NOR words, NOR wrongs, NOR love, NOR hate, NOR fears;

A doubtful choice of these things which to crave,

A kingdom or a cottage or a grave.

Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, by 1586  

HAD I no eyes but ears, my ears would love

That inward beauty and invisible.

OR WERE I DEAF, thy outward parts would move

Each part in me that were but sensible.

Though NEITHER eyes, NOR ears, to hear NOR see,

Yet should I be in love by touching thee.

– William Shakespeare, 1593

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Of course both were by Oxford, who probably wrote the first version of Venus and Adonis in the 1570s or early 1580s ….

 

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