1690 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joshua Sylvester

Anthony Wood, Athenae Oxonienses (1690-91; 1721) 1:594.



JOSHUA SYLVESTER, usually called by the Poets of his time Silver-Tongued Sylvester, but whether he receiv'd any Academical Education at this University, or in that of Cambr. (having had his Muse kindly foster'd by his Uncle W. Plumb Esq;) I cannot say, because that in his manly Years he is reported to be a Merchant-Adventurer; Queen Elizabeth had a respect for him, K. James I. a greater, and Prince Henry Greatest of all, and so much valued by him that he made him his first Poet-Pensioner. He was much renown'd by his virtuous Fame; and by those of his Profession, and such that admir'd Poetry, esteemed a Saint on Earth, a true Nathaniel, a Christian Israelite, who tell us farther that he was very pious and sober, religious in himself and Family, and courageous to withstand Adversity: That also he was adorned with the gift of Tongues, French, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, and Latin. But this must be known, that he taking too much Liberty upon him to correct the Vices of the times, as George Withers; and Jo. Vicars, Poets, afterwards did, he suffered several times some Trouble, and thereupon it was, as I presume, that his Step-Dame country did ungratefully cast him off and became most unkind to him. He hath translated from French into English, The Divine Weeks and Works, with a compleat Collection of all the other most delightful Works, of Will. de Saluste Sieur du Bartas, printed at Lond. after Sylvester's Death, an. 1621. fol. with his Picture (a Shoulder-piece) Laureated, set before it. By which Work he hath been more generally fam'd (for that Poem hath had many great Admirers) than his own Poems and Translations, had been all, or at least most, printed severally before. At length this Poet J. Sylvester (a name worthily dear to the Age he lived in) died at Middleburg in Zeland on the 18th of Sept. 1618, aged 55, and had this Epitaph following made on him by his great Admirer Joh. Vicars before-mention'd, but I think it was not put over his Grave:

Here lies (Death's too rich Prize) the Corps interr'd
Of Joshua Sylvester Du Bartas Peer;
A Man of Arts best Parts, to God, Man, dear;
In foremost Rank of Poets best preferr'd.