He was for a short time a land steward, and in 1606 Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales gave him a small pension as a kind of court poet. In 1613 he obtained a position as secretary to the Merchant Adventurers. He was stationed at Middelburg, in the Low Countries, where he died.
His Essay of the Second Week was published in 1598; and in 1604 The Divine Weeks of the World's Birth. The ornate style of the original offered no difficulty to Sylvester, who was himself a disciple of the Euphuists and added many adornments of his own invention. The Sepmaines of Du Bartas appealed most to his English and German co-religionists, and the translation was immensely popular. It has often been suggested that John Milton owed something in the conception of Paradise Lost to Sylvester's translation. His popularity ceased with the Restoration, and John Dryden called his verse "abominable fustian."
His works were reprinted by A. B. Grosart (1880) in the Chertsey Worthies Library. See also Charles Dunster, Considerations on Milton's early Reading (1800).