A Sonnet upon the Pitiful Burning of the Globe Playhouse in London

Original Text: 
Gentlemen's Magazine 86 (London, 1816): 114. AP 4 G3 Robarts
3And tell the dolefull tragedie,
4That late was playd at Globe;
5For noe man that can singe and saye
6But was scard on St. Peters Daye.
7Oh sorrow, pittifull sorrow, and yett all this is true.
8  All yow that please to understand,
9Come listen to my storye,
10To see Death with his rakeing brand
13Nor yett the rugged face of Henry the Eight.
14Oh sorrow, &c.
15  This fearfull fire beganne above,
16A wonder strange and true,
17And to the stage-howse did remove,
20And did not spare the silken flagg.
21Oh sorrow, &c.
22  Out runne the knightes, out runne the lordes,
23And there was great adoe;
24Some lost their hattes and some their swordes;
26The reprobates, though druncke on Munday,
28Oh sorrow, &c.
31A woefull burneing did betide
33Then with swolne eyes, like druncken Flemminges,
35Oh sorrow, &c.
37In all that Sunn-shine weather,
38To save that great renowned howse;
39Nor thou, O ale-howse, neither.
40Had itt begunne belowe, sans doubte,
41Their wives for feare had pissed itt out.
42Oh sorrow, &c.
43  Bee warned, yow stage strutters all,
44Least yow againe be catched,
45And such a burneing doe befall,
47Forbeare your whoreing, breeding biles,
48And laye up that expence for tiles.
49Oh sorrow, &c.
51And doe yow not abhorr itt,
52And gett, with low submission,
53A licence to begg for itt
54In churches, sans churchwardens checkes,
55In Surrey and in Midlesex.
56Oh sorrow, pittifull sorrow, and yett all this is true.


1] The Stationers Register (Arber, III, 528) licensed Edward White, the day after the fire, to print "a doleful ballad of the general ouerthrowe of the famous theater on the Banksyde called the Globe &c by William Parrat." Another ballad was licensed to Simon Stafford that day, "called the sodayne Burninge of the Globe on the Bankside in the Play tyme on Saint Peters day last 1613", but it lacks the word "doleful" in the title (see line 3). Perhaps, then, this poem is written by William Parrat. E. K. Chambers, in The Elizabethan Stage (1923), II, 420, note 3, identifies the early-17th-century manuscript in which the poem appears as owned by Sir Mathew Wilson (Eshton Hall, York) and sold to G. D. Smith in New York.
The Globe, most famous of the Elizabethan playhouses, was burned on June 29, 1613, during a performance of Henry VIII -- also entitled All is True, the refrain ironically used by the poet here. See lines 12-13.
Melpomene: the muse of tragedy. Back to Line
2] sea-coal: used in the 16th and 17th centuries for mineral coal as distinguished from charcoal, usually called coal. The derivation is disputed. Back to Line
11] auditorye: audience. Back to Line
12] An allusion to Cardinal Wolsey, a character in Henry VIII. Back to Line
18] clew: ball of thread. Back to Line
19] snagg: sharp, projecting piece of wood. Back to Line
25] Burbage: Richard Burbage, a sharer in the Globe and actor of chief parts in the plays of Shakespeare, Jonson, and others; especially famous for certain tragic roles. Back to Line
27] Condye: Henry Condell, also a sharer in the Globeand famous actor; with John Heminge, edited the first folio of Shakespeare's plays, 1623. Back to Line
29] perrywigges and drumme-heades: (costume) wigs and drum-membranes. Back to Line
30] butter firkin: small keg of butter. Back to Line
32] buffe jerkin: leather jacket without sleeves. Back to Line
34] Hemings: John Heminge, also a sharer in the Globe. Back to Line
36] The first editor of this poem in Representative Poetry, N. J. Endicott, removed this stanza. Back to Line
46] thatched: in one of his letters Sir Henry Wotton says it was the paper or entrance of Henry VIII that started the fire. Back to Line
50] An ironic reference to the fact that the playhouses were in ill repute with the church and city authorities. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott; Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2RP.1.241; re-edited RPO 1996-2000.