Elizabethan Sonnet Month

Joshua Sylvester (1563-1618)

Introduction

JOSHUA SYLVESTER (1563-1618), 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."
Jem Farmer

Constancy

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 honor of my love.
Were I as high as heaven above plain,
And you, my Love, as humble and as low
As are the deepest bottoms of the main,
Wheresoe'er you were, with you my love should go.
Were you the earth, dear Love, and I the skies,
My love should shine on you like to the sun,
And look upon you with ten thousand eyes
Till heaven waxed blind, and till the world were dun.
Wheresoe'er I am, below, or else above you,
Wheresoe'er you are, my heart shall truly love you. .

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
To amaze the poor shepherds watching in the fields:
I'll ne'er believe that the least flower that pranks
Our garden borders, or the common banks,
And the least stone that in her warming lap
Our kind nurse Earth doth covetously wrap
Hath some peculiar virtue of its own,
And that the glorious stars of Heaven have none,
But shine in vain, and have no charge precise,
But to be walking in Heaven's galleries,
And through the palace up and down to clamber
As golden gulls about a presence-chamber.

They say that shadows

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:
So, in the place where cruel Love doth shoot
The fatal shaft that slew my love's delight,
I stalk, and walk, and wander day and night,
Even like a ghost with unperceived foot.
But those light ghosts are happier far than I,
For, at their pleasure, they can come and go
Unto the place that hides their treasure so,
And see the name with their fantastic eye:
Where I, alas, dare not approach the cruel
Proud moment that doth enclose my jewel.





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Elizabethan Sonnet Month
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Only after the last tree has been cut down
Only after the last river has been poisoned
Only after the last fish has been caught
Only then will we realise that money cannot be eaten
- Cree Indian Prophesy