Poet and lawyer Sir John Davies was born in Wiltshire and educated at Winchester College and Queen’s College, Oxford, though historians disagree about whether he graduated. In 1588, he enrolled in the Middle Temple, where he studied with John Donne, and was called to the bar in 1595. In addition to his legal study, Davies wrote poetry, notably Orchestra, or, A Poeme of Dancing (1596). Davies’s other works include a series of epigrams drawn from his youthful misadventures; Nosce teipsum (1594), a poetic treatise on the immortality of the soul; and Hymnes of Astraea in Acrosticke Verse (1599),an acrostic poem spelling the words Elisabetha Regina. Davies also contributed poetic dialogues to Francis Davison’s Poetical Rhapsody (1602). His Collected Poems appeared in 1622.
It is thought that Davies accompanied King James to Scotland after Queen Elizabeth’s death in 1603. Eventually knighted by the king, Davies was made solicitor general for Ireland and emerged as a champion of legal reform in Ireland. He attempted to lay the grounds for a strong civil society, albeit one that benefited England and English rule in all cases. Davies helped cement pro-English property laws and advocated the expulsion of Catholic priests to shore up Protestantism. He was appointed speaker in the Irish Parliament in 1613 and presided over the first Protestant majority. He returned to England and served in the Parliament of 1621. Charles I appointed Davies lord chief justice in 1626, but he died just before officially taking office. John Donne gave his funeral oration. Davies was buried in St. Martin-in-the-Fields.