Soliloquy on an Empty Purse

By Mary Jones 1707–1778 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.


Source: The Longman Anthology of Poetry (Pearson, 2006)

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Poet Mary Jones 1707–1778

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Augustan

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics, Poetry & Poets, Humor & Satire

Biography

British poet Mary Jones was born in 1707 and raised in Oxford. Her brother, with whom she lived for most of her adult life, served as a reverend and chanter for Christ Church Cathedral.
 
Influenced by Alexander Pope, Jones composed formal poems that engage domestic and social themes with wry humor. She published one volume during her lifetime: Miscellanies in Prose and Verse (1750), which includes poems, letters, and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics, Poetry & Poets, Humor & Satire

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Augustan

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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