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Sir Edward Dyer

(1540 - 1607 / England)

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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The Faire Amarillis

Amarillis was full fayre:
The goodlyest mayde was she
From the east unto the west
That heaven's eye could se.


To Diana at her birthe
Her parents did her geve,
All untouchte a mayden's lyfe

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