Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Soliloquy on an Empty Purse by Mary Jones

Alas, my Purse! how lean and low!
My silken Purse! what art thou now!
One I beheld—but stocks will fall—
When both thy ends had wherewithal.
When I within thy slender fence
My fortune placed, and confidence;
A poet’s fortune!—not immense:
Yet, mixed with keys, and coins among,
Chinked to the melody of song.

Canst thou forget, when, high in air,
I saw thee fluttering at a fair?
And took thee, destined to be sold,
My lawful Purse, to have and hold?
Yet used so oft to disembogue,
No prudence could thy fate prorogue.
Like wax thy silver melted down,
Touch but the brass, and lo! ’twas gone:
And gold would never with thee stay,
For gold had wings, and flew away.

Alas, my Purse! yet still be proud,
For see the Virtues round thee crowd!
See, in the room of paltry wealth,
Calm Temperance rise, the nurse of health;
And Self-Denial, slim and spare,
And Fortitude, with look severe;
And Abstinence, to leanness prone,
And Patience, worn to skin and bone:
Prudence and Foresight on thee wait,
And Poverty lies here in state!
Hopeless her spirits to recruit,
For every Virtue is a mute.

Well then, my Purse, thy Sabbaths keep;
Now thou art empty, I shall sleep.
No silver sounds shall thee molest,
Nor golden dreams disturb my breast.
Safe shall I walk with thee along,
Amidst temptations thick and strong;
Catched by the eye, no more shall stop
At Wildey’s toys, or Pinchbeck’s shop;
Nor cheapening Payne’s ungodly books,
Be drawn aside by pastry-cooks:
But fearless now we both may go
Where Ludgate’s mercers bow so low;
Beholding all with equal eye,
Nor moved at—“Madam, what d’ye buy?”

Away, far hence each worldly care!
Nor dun nor pick-purse shalt thou fear,
Nor flatterer base annoy my ear.
Snug shalt thou travel through the mob,
For who a poet’s purse will rob?
And softly sweet in garret high

Will I thy virtues magnify;
Outsoaring flatterers’ stinking breath,
And gently rhyming rats to death.


Mary Jones, 1707-1778

It seems that the mystery of the self-emptying purse is one that has been with us for some time now, but I am not so sure it is an affliction that is entirely the province of poets.

PS very few rats were harmed in the posting of this blog - so have a great week everybody.

A.J. Ponder 

 A.J. Ponder's work is available through Rona Gallery, Amazon, and good Wellington bookstores

 



10 comments:

  1. Hah! This is a hoot, Alicia :) I particularly liked the line 'for who a poet's purse will rob?'

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    1. Cheers Elizabeth, yes such a fun line - and so unfortunately true. ;)

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    2. It was a similar line that leapt out at me: "A poet’s fortune!—not immense". There are, it seems, some things that stay the same.

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  2. Replies
    1. Cheers. For although this truth is a sad thing - at least we should all be entertained in our poverty. ;)

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  3. This is really quite delightful. Thanks for finding this. Where did you find it? :-)

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    1. Um...I was kind of looking for a poet definitely out of print and stumbled upon it while looking up 18th Century poets.

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  4. I love the idea of rhyming rats to death. Gently. I wonder if there's a particular rhyme that finishes them off? Any guesses?

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    1. I believe you found the exact right poem for this - An Address to Shakespeare by William McGonagall ;)

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