Biography of Joshua Sylvester
English poet, the son of a Kentish clothier, was born in 1563. In his tenth year he was sent to school at Southampton, where he gained a knowledge of French.
After about three years at school he appears to have been put to business, and in 1591 the title-page of his Yvry states that he was in the service of the Merchant Adventurers' Company. He was for a short time a land steward, and in 1606 Prince Henry gave him a small pension as a kind of court poet.
In 1613 he obtained a position as secretary to the Merchant Adventurers. He was stationed at Middelburg, in the Low Countries, where he died on the 28th of September 1618.
He translated into English heroic couplets the scriptural epic of Guillaume du Bartas . His Essay of the Second Week was published in 1598; and in 1604 The Divine Weeks of the World's Birth .
The ornate style of the original offered no difficulty to Sylvester, who was himself a disciple of the Euphuists and added many adornments of his own invention. The Sepmaines of Du Bartas appealed most to his English and German co-religionists, and the translation was immensely popular. It has often been suggested that Milton owed something in the conception of Paradise Lost to Sylvester's translation.
His popularity ceased with the Restoration, and Dryden called his verse " abominable fustian."
His works were reprinted by Dr A. B. Grosart (1880) in the " Chertsey Worthies Library."
Joshua Sylvester Poems
To His Coy Love
I pray thee, leave, love me no more, Call home the heart you gave me! I but in vain that saint adore Tat can but will not save me.
WERE I as base as is the lowly plain, And you, my Love, as high as heaven above, Yet should the thoughts of me, your humble swain, Ascend to heaven in honour of my love.
Du Bartas, His Divine Weeks and Works (e...
Where I was base as is the lowly plain, And you, my Love, as high as heaven above, Yet should the thoughts of me your humble swain
The Glorious Stars of Heaven
I'll ne'er believe that the Arch-Architect With all these fires the heavenly arches decked Only for show, and with their glistening shields
They say that shadows of deceased ghosts
They say that shadows of deceased ghosts Do haunt the houses and the graves about, Of such whose life's lamp went untimely out, Delighting still in their forsaken hosts:
Were I as base as is the lowly plain, And you, my Love, as high as heaven above, Yet should the thoughts of me, your humble swain,
A Contented Mind
I weigh not Fortune's frown or smile, I joy not much in earthly joys; I seek not state, I reck not style, I am not fond of fancy's toys;
ALPHA and Omega, God alone: Eloi, My God, the Holy-One; Whose Power is Omnipotence: Whose Wisedome is Omni-science:
To His Coy Love
I pray thee, leave, love me no more,
Call home the heart you gave me!
I but in vain that saint adore
Tat can but will not save me.
These poor half-kisses kill me quite
Was ever man thus served?
Amidst an ocean of delight
For pleasure to be starved?
Show me no more those snowy breasts