Sir Edward Dyer
Biography of Sir Edward Dyer
English courtier and poet, son of Sir Thomas Dyer, Kt., was born at Sharpham Park, Somersetshire. He was educated, according to Anthony ~ Wood, either at Balliol College or at Broadgates Hall, Oxford. He left the university without taking a degree, and after some time spent abroad appeared at Queen. Elizabeth’s court. His first patron was the earl of Leicester, who seems to have thought of putting him forward as a rival to Sir Christopher Hatton in the queen’s favour.
Author of two of the most famous Elizabethan lyrics, 'My Mind to Me a Kingdom is' and 'The Lowest Trees have Tops', Dyer cut a figure of some significance at Elizabeth's Court and became Chancellor of the Order of the Garter.
Philip Sidney and he were companions in everything (he was 'Coridens' [Cosn Dier] in Sidney's verse) and with Fulke Greville Dyer was bequeathed Sidney's books. He wrote an elegy lamenting Sidney's death. His other friends included Robert Earl of Essex, Gilbert Talbot Earl of Shrewsbury, Walter Ralegh, Robert Sidney, Robert Cecil, Thomas Sackville Lord Buckhurst, Sir Christopher Hatton, the Countess of Pembroke and John Dee.
An alchemist himself, it was largely on the basis of Dyer's reports of the success of Edward Kelley, Dee's scryer, that influenced Elizabeth and Burghley to take Kelley's claims seriously. Dyer worked with Kelley in his laboratory in Bohemia for about six months in 1590.
His contemporaries praised his skill as a poet: '...in a manner oure onlye Inglish poett...' and his 'written devises farr excell most of the sonets, and cantos in print' (Gabriel Harvey); 'Maister Edward Dyar for Elegie moste sweete, solempne and of high conceit' (Puttenham); Nashe stated that Dyer was the first 'that repurified Poetrie from Arts pedantisime, and that instructed it to speake courtly'.
His modern biographer, Ralph Sargent (The Life and Lyrics of Sir Edward Dyer, 1968, concludes that as 'the earliest of the Elizabethan "courtly makers", Dyer brought forth possibly the first fine lyrics of the Renaissance in England...[and] amongst the swelling chorus of all Elizabeth's poets, he strikes a rich, lingering minor chord.'
He was buried at St Saviour’s, Southwark, on the 11th of May 1607.
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Sir Edward Dyer Poems
My Mind To Me A Kingdom Is
My mind to me a kingdom is; Such perfect joy therein I find That it excels all other bliss Which God or nature hath assign'd.
The Lowest Trees Have Tops
The lowest trees have tops, the ant her gall, The fly her spleen, the little spark his heat, And slender hairs cast shadows though but small, And bees have stings although they be not great.
I Would And I Would Not
I woulde it were not as it is Or that I cared not yea or no; I woulde I thoughte it not amiss, Or that amiss mighte blamles goo;
The Man Of Woe
The mann whose thoughtes agaynste him do conspyre, One whom Mishapp her storye dothe depaynt, The mann of woe, the matter of desier, Free of the dead, that lives in endles plaint,
Hee that his mirth hath loste, Whose comfort is dismaid, Whose hope is vaine, whose faith is scorned, Whose trust is all betraid,
Devyde my tymes and rate my wretched howres From days to months, fro months to many yeers, And than compare my sweetest to my sowres then And see wich more in equall vewe appeares;
The Shepherd's Conceit Of Prometheus
Prometheus when firste frome heaven hye He broughte downe fyre, 'ere then on earthe not seene, Fond of Delight, a Satyre standing bye Gaue it a kyss, as it lyke Sweete had bene.
Coridon To His Phillis
Alas my hart, mine eye hath wrongèd thee, Presumptious eye, to gaze on Phillis face: Whose heavenly eye no mortall man may see But he must die, or purchase Phillis grace.
As rare to heare as seldome to be seene, It cannot be nor never yet hathe bene That fire should burne with perfecte heate and flame Without some matter for to yealde the same.
A Lady Forsaken Complayneth
If pleasures be in painfulness, in pleasures doth my body rest, If joyes accord with carefulness, a joyful hart is in my brest: If prison strong be liberty, in liberty long have I been, If joyes accord with misery, who can compare a lyfe to myne:
To Phillis The Faire Sheeperdesse
My Phillis hath the morninge Sunne, at first to looke upon her: And Phillis hath morne-waking birds, her risinge still to honour.
The Faire Amarillis
Amarillis was full fayre: The goodlyest mayde was she From the east unto the west That heaven's eye could se.
As rare to heare as seldome to be seene,
It cannot be nor never yet hathe bene
That fire should burne with perfecte heate and flame
Without some matter for to yealde the same.
A straunger case yet true by profe I knowe
A man in joy that livethe still in woe:
A harder happ who hathe his love at lyste