A Parley with His Empty Purse

Purse, who'll not know you have a poet's been,
When he shall look and find no gold herein?
What respect (think you) will there now be shown
To this foul nest when all the birds are flown?
Unnatural vacuum, can your emptiness
Answer to some slight questions, such as these?
How shall my debts be paid? or can my scores
Be cleared with verses to my creditors?
Hexameter's no sterling, and I fear
What the brain coins goes scarce for current there:
Can metre cancel bonds? Is here a time
Ever to hope to wipe out chalk with rhyme?
Or if I now were hurrying to the jail,
Are the nine Muses held sufficient bail?
Would they to any composition come,
If we should mortgage our Elysium,
Tempe, Parnassus, and the golden streams
Of Tagus and Pactolus: those rich dreams
Of active fancy? Can our Orpheus move
Those rocks and stones with his best strains of love?
Should I (like Homer) sing in lofty tones
To them Achilles and his myrmidons!
Hector and Ajax are but sergeant's names,
They relish basalt 'bove the epigrams
Of the most seasoned brain; nor will they be
Content with ode, or paid with elegy.
Muse, burn thy bays, and thy fond quill resign,
One cross of theirs is worth whole books of mine.
Of all the treasure which the poets hold
There's none at all they weigh, except our gold;
And mine's returned to th' Indies, and hath swore
Never to visit this cold climate more.
Then crack your strings, good purse, for you need none!
Gape on, as they do to be paid, gape on!
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