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

June 13

On the Lord General Fairfax

By John Milton (1608–1674)

  • This sonnet was written to commemorate the Siege of Colchester, which together with the battle of Preston, formed the culminating point of the royalist rising of 1648. The town was invested on June 18th and surrendered on August 27th. The Lord Fairfax here addressed is the third of his name, and may be distinguished as the great Lord Fairfax.

  • FAIRFAX, whose name in arms through Europe rings,

    Filling each mouth with envy or with praise,

    And all her jealous monarchs with amaze,

    And rumours loud that daunt remotest kings;

    Thy firm unshaken virtue ever brings

    Victory home, though new rebellions raise

    Their Hydra heads, and the false North displays

    Her broken league to imp their serpent-wings.

    O yet a nobler task awaits thy hand

    (For what can war but endless war still breed?)

    Till truth and right from violence be freed,

    And public faith cleared from the shameful brand

    Of public fraud. In vain doth valour bleed,

    While avarice and rapine share the land.