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James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

November 12

Epitaph on Sir Thomas Fairfax

By George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham (1592–1628)

  • Sir Thomas Fairfax, who died on Nov. 12, 1671, was a celebrated Parliamentary leader in the English Civil Wars.

  • I.
    UNDER this stone doth lie

    One born for victory,—

    Fairfax the valiant, and the only He

    Who ere for that alone a conqueror would be.

    Both sexes’ virtues were in him combined:

    He had the fierceness of the manliest mind,

    And all the meekness too of womankind.

    He never knew what envy was, nor hate;

    His soul was filled with worth and honesty,

    And with another thing besides, quite out of date,

    Called modesty.


    When all the nation he had won,

    And with expense of blood had bought

    Store great enough, he thought,

    Of fame and of renown,—

    He then his arms laid down,

    With full as little pride

    As if he’d been the other, conquered side,

    Or one of them could be that were undone.

    He neither wealth nor places sought:

    For others, not himself, he fought;

    He was content to know

    (For he had found it so)

    That when he pleased to conquer he was able,

    And left the spoil and plunder to the rabble.

    He might have been a king,

    But that he understood

    How much it is a meaner thing

    To be unjustly great than honorably good.

    This from the world did admiration draw,

    And from his friends both love and awe,

    Remembering what he did in fight before.

    Nay, his foes loved him too,

    As they were bound to do,

    Because he was resolved to fight no more.

    So, blessed of all he died, but far more blessed were we

    If we were sure to live till we could see

    A man as great in war, as just in peace as he.