Hampshire, Winchester, c 1615–37

Poem on a Schoolboy Actor Killed Acting a Tragedy

Huntington Library: HM 116

pp 75–6


On ye Death of Longland slaine in acting a Tragedy

O let me weepe in English whole denye

My Mothers Tongue wherin I l‸⸢e⸣a‸⸢r⸣nd to cry

The Graecian Idiom fitts not all, their fiue

Affords no case like this sad Ablatiue

The courting period of a Spanish breath

Yeilds not persuasiue complement for Death

The french excludes most consonants and I

Must be a consonant in this wofull crye

Indeede ye fluent Latin may expresse

Our sorrows tide, yat ouerflowes no lesse.|

Yet their Declensions are all designd

To in‸⸢v⸣ocke a fate yat cannot be declined.

Vnhappy Wretch yat acts a this dismall part

That puts to silence all ye Tongues of art

For what can Nature speake alasse this fall

Hath L made her dumbe too, tis vnnaturall

How shall wee uent our greife? (o lets deuise

To wring a Language from our blubbord eyes

Teach me to pen a sigh, yat euery line

May pe pickle vp a Mourner in ye brine

Of his owne teares, at least; lets be agreed

To weepe as fast as this our freind did bleed

Deare heart that was so serious in ye rest

Of all his lyfe, he could not play in Iest

O too too true Tragaedian twas thy task

To practize to be murderd & to maske

A Deadman on ye stage, vnhappy strife

To act <..> a lyfe of Death, a Death of Lyfe

But sure his soule had still bene Chamberd in

Within his Body had his Body bin

Still in his Chamber, had her not drawne ayre

To quicke throughe new made mouth Id'e not dispayre

But that his one might still haue breath'd quick

Had he not sickly liu'd; that dy'd not sick

Had Heauens posture bene as Drowsy as

Was ours, or ours as Wakefull as Heauens was

Doubtlesse he had (alass alass my greife

Sends me I know not whither for releife)

Hees dead, hees dead & all haue giuen him or'e,

Hees slaine, Ile weep, for I can write no more.


  • Footnotes
    • (o … eyes: closing parenthesis missing
  • Glossed Terms
    • blubbord adj blubbered; flooded with tears [OEDO blubbered adj]
  • Document Description

    Record title: Poem on a Schoolboy Actor Killed Acting a Tragedy
    Repository: Huntington Library
    Shelfmark: HM 116
    Repository location: San Marino, California

    A boy called Christopher Longland was elected to Winchester College at the age of 11 in 1623. Some time between his admission, which could have been as much as a year later, and when he would have left college in about 1630, aged 18, he was killed by a sword wound, according to Kirby, who gets his information from the original college register (Thomas Frederick Kirby, Winchester Scholars: A List of the Wardens, Fellows, and Scholars of Saint Mary College of Winchester, near Winchester, commonly called Winchester College (London and Winchester, 1888), 170). According to the college archivist, a note next to the 1623 Longland entry says 'gladio interrumpt' et in claust' sepult',' but there is no date given for his death.

    The authorship of this poem is unclear. All the handwriting in the manuscript, with the exception of the last page, appears to be the same, and the manuscript includes at least one poem attributed to Donne. Others are by Carew, Cleveland, and Beaumont and Fletcher. There are several others signed 'H' and 'HH,' which could be by the writer himself, who appears to have some connection with Oxford, either with Brasenose College or Christ Church but not with New College, as might be expected if there had been any personal connection with Winchester College. The manuscript is undated but Hudson gives the dates as between 1615 and 1640, although the last entry appears to be dated 1637 ('Schoolboy Tragedy,' pp 153–4). The poems are copied down at random, not in any date order of the events to which they refer. 'On Dr Dun's Death,' for example, comes earlier in the manuscript than the poem attributed to Donne himself. The poem was written by someone who considered himself a friend and who knew what part Longland took in the performance, so he could well have been a Winchester scholar. Longland did not live long enough to matriculate at Oxford, although his friend may well have done so and have been at New College. Hudson also says that a number of the pieces in the manuscript deal with Winchester College as well as with Oxford, but there is no mention of Winchester at all in the text of this commonplace book.

    c 1615–37; English; paper; ii + 180 + ii; 140mm x 91mm, interleaved with blank pages measuring 158mm x 145mm, some with late 18th-c. or early 19th-c. notes concerning the MS; contemporary pagination; 20th-c. rebinding in marbled calf.

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