John Milton laments the case of a people who won their liberty “in the field” but who then foolishly “ran their necks again into the yoke” of tyranny (1660)

John Milton

Found in The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth

After having fought for individual liberty in the English Revolution, the English poet John Milton was appalled that oppressive monarchy would be returned in 1660:

That a nation should be so valorous and courageous to win their liberty in the field, and when they have won it, should be so heartless and unwise in their counsels, as not to know how to use it, value it, what to do with it, or with themselves; but after ten or twelve years' prosperous war and contestation with tyranny, basely and besottedly to run their necks again into the yoke which they have broken, and prostrate all the fruits of their victory for nought at the feet of the vanquished…

It must be heartbreaking for a man with the intellectual gifts and liberal sentiments Milton had, as a poet and political theorist and defender of free speech, to see the Republic and the revolution he had fought so hard for, turn into a dictatorship under Cromwell and then face the ignominy of a restoration of the oppressive Stuarts monarchy. It did mean however that Milton was forced to return to writing poetry. For that at least, we must be grateful.