Melissus was born in Mellrichstadt. He studied and attended school in Zwickau from 1557 to 1559, and studied philology in Erfurt and Jena. From 1560 to 1564 he lived in Vienna, where in 1561 he became poet laureate. He stayed in Prague, Wittenberg and Leipzig, and was called to the court of the bishop of Würzburg and went on a campaign to Hungary with him.
He was an ambassador in the service of Emperor Maximilian II and Rudolf II, and traveled to France, Switzerland, Italy, and England and was ultimately director of the Electoral library (the Bibliotheca Palatina) in Heidelberg, where he died.
Melissus translated works of Clément Marot and Théodore de Bèze for the Hugenot church services in rhyme using the Psalms in German. He was the first to use the sonnet and the terza rima in German lyric. In his lifetime he was recognized as an author fully versed in Latin love poetry.
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