Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
 
Critical Introduction by Mary Augusta Ward
Sir Edward Dyer (1543–1607)
 
[Born at Sharpham near Glastonbury; educated at Balliol College, Oxford; ambassador to Denmark 1589; knighted 1596; died 1607.]  1
 
SIR EDWARD DYER, ‘for Elegy most sweete, solempne and of high conceit,’ according to a contemporary judgment, makes the last in importance, though the first in date, of that trio of poet-friends celebrated in Sidney’s well-known Pastoral:
 ‘Join hearts and hands, so let it be:
Make but one mind in bodies three.’
Very little authentic verse of his is now extant, nor is it probable that he produced much. On the other hand he has been freely credited with verses that do not belong to him, especially with certain poems that are now known to be by Lodge. Mr. Grosart has collected twelve pieces which may be attributed to him with a fair amount of certainty. Of these ‘A Fancy’ is interesting as having provoked a much better poem on the same model by Lord Brooke, and a later imitation by Robert Southwell. It is however too rambling and unequal for quotation. Dyer is now remembered by one poem only, the well-known ‘My mind to me a kingdom is,’ which though fluent and spirited verse, probably owes most of its reputation to the happiness of its opening. The little poem ‘To Phillis the Fair Shepherdess’ is in the lighter, less hackneyed Elizabethan vein, and makes a welcome interlude among the ‘woeful ballads’ which immediately surround it in England’s Helicon, where it first appeared. Still, when all is said, Dyer, a man of action and affairs rather than of letters, is chiefly interesting for his connection with Sidney and Greville; and that stiff pathetic engraving of Sidney’s funeral, which represents him as pall-bearer side by side with Lord Brooke, throws a light upon his memory that none of his poems have power to shed.
  2
  The last two extracts given here are taken from a book of which an apparently unique copy (dated 1588) is preserved in the Bodleian Library, under the title of Sixe Idillia (from Theocritus). 1 Mr. Collier attributes this book to Dyer, on the ground of the initials E. D. given on the back of the title-page. This is weak evidence, but the fluency and sweetness of the translations make us loth to reject it.  3
 
Note 1. A small edition of this book has just (1883) been issued from the private press of the Rev. Henry Daniel, of Oxford. [back]
 
 
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