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Milton warns Parliament’s general Fairfax that justice must break free from violence if “endless war” is to be avoided (1648)

John Milton (1608-1674) extolls the success of General Fairfax, the head of Parliament’s New Model Army, in his war against the Royalists. However, Milton warns the general that war will only breed more war until “truth and right” are separated from the violence of war:

O yet a nobler task awaites thy hand;

For what can Warr, but endless warr still breed,

Till Truth, & Right from Violence be freed,

And Public Faith cleard from the shamefull brand

Of Public Fraud. In vain doth Valour bleed

While Avarice, & Rapine share the land.

On the Lord Gen. Fairfax at the seige of Colchester.

Fairfax, whose name in armes through Europe rings
Filling each mouth with envy, or with praise,
And all her jealous monarchs with amaze,
And rumors loud, that daunt remotest kings,
Thy firm unshak’n vertue ever brings
Victory home, though new rebellions raise
Thir Hydra heads, & the fals North displaies
Her brok’n league, to impe their serpent wings,
O yet a nobler task awaites thy hand;
For what can Warr, but endless warr still breed,
Till Truth, & Right from Violence be freed,
And Public Faith cleard from the shamefull brand
Of Public Fraud. In vain doth Valour bleed
While Avarice, & Rapine share the land.

About this Quotation:

General Thomas Fairfax (1612-1671) was the head of the New Model Army which defended the interests of Parliament in the English Revolution against the supporters of the Stuart Monarchy. The Siege of Colchester took place in 1648 when the Republican Army defeated Royalist forces in the town of Colchester in Essex after a lengthy siege.

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