"Hireling Wolves, Whose Gospel Is Their Maw"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: One proposal made to the Parliamentary Committee for the Propagation of the Gospel was that no one should be allowed to speak from a pulpit who had not been certified by two or more "godly and orthodox ministers." It was in protest to this proposed restriction on freedom of speech, in which Milton believed intensely, that the poet addressed this sonnet to Oliver Cromwell, then General of the Parliamentary armies and soon to be named Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England. Milton praised first Cromwell's military achievements and then appealed to him to secure the victories of peace and to protect freedom of conscience.

Cromwell, our cheif of men, who through a cloud
Not of warr onely, but detractions rude,
Guided by faith & matchless Fortitude
To peace & truth thy glorious way hast plough'd,
And on the neck of crowned Fortune proud
Hast reard Gods Trophies, & his work pursu'd,
While Darwen stream with blood of Scotts imbru'd,
And Dunbarr feild resounds thy praises loud,
And Worsters laureat wreath; yet much remaines
To conquer still; peace hath her victories
No less renownd then warr, new foes aries
Threatning to bind our soules with secular chaines:
Helpe us to save free Conscience from the paw
Of hireling wolves whose Gospell is their maw.