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John Milton (1608-1674)

On the Lord General Fairfax at the Siege of Colchester


              1Fairfax, whose name in arms through Europe rings
              2    Filling each mouth with envy, or with praise,
              3    And all her jealous monarchs with amaze
              4    And rumours loud, that daunt remotest kings;
              5Thy firm unshak'n virtue ever brings
              6    Victory home, though new rebellions raise
              7    Their hydra heads, and the false north displays
              8    Her brok'n league, to imp their serpent wings:
              9O yet a nobler task awaits thy hand;
            10    For what can war but endless war still breed?
            11    Till Truth and Right from Violence be freed,
            12And Public Faith clear'd from the shameful brand
            13    Of Public Fraud. In vain doth Valour bleed
            14    While Avarice and Rapine share the land.

Notes

1] Sir Thomas Fairfax (1611-1671) was made general of the re-modelled Parliamentary army in 1645 and was in command at Naseby. On the outbreak of the "Second Civil War" or new Royalist rising in 1648, Fairfax laid siege to Colchester, which had been seized for the kind, and after a stubborn defence, captured it, August 28, 1648. It appears that the sonnet was composed after the siege of Colchester had begun, and before the battle of Preston, August 17, the false North being still undefeated when Milton wrote.

7] Hydra: the many-headed monster slain by Hercules.

8] imp: strengthen by grafting in new feathers.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: John Milton, Letters of State Written by Mr. John Milton (London, 1694). [With Edward Phillips' life of Milton.] B-10 702 Fisher Rare Book Library
First publication date: 1694
RPO poem editor: N. J. Endicott
RP edition: 2RP.1.369; RPO 1996-2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/24

Composition date: 1648
Form: sonnet
Rhyme: abbaabbacddcdc


Other poems by John Milton