A Dialogue betwixt Riches and Poverty

I, Wealth, can make all men of each degree
To crouch and flatter, and to follow me.
I many cities build, high, thick, and large,
And armies raise, against each other charge.
I make them lose1 their lives for my dear sake,                  5
Though when they’re dead they no rewards can take.
I trample truth under my golden feet,
And tread down innocence, that flower sweet.
I gather beauty when ’tis newly blown,
Reap chastity before ’tis overgrown.                                    10
I root out virtue with a golden spade;
I cut off justice with a golden blade.
Pride and ambition are my vassals low,
And on their heads I tread as I do go.
And by mankind much more adored2 am I—                     15
Although but earth—than the bright sun so3 high.

Riches, thou art a slave, and runn’st about
On every errand; thou com’st4 in, go’st5 out.
And men of honor set on thee no price
Their6 honesty or7 virtue to8 entice.                                      20
Some foolish gamesters, which do love to play
At cards and dice, corrupt perchance you may,
A silly virgin gather here and there,
That doth9 gay clothes and jewels love to wear.
The10 poor, which hate their neighbor brave to see,         25
Perchance may seek and love your company.
And those that strive to please their senses all,
If they want wealth, and11 you pass by, will12 call.
On age, ’tis true, you have a great, strong power,
For they embrace you, though they die next hour.           30

You speak, poor poverty, mere out of spite,
Because there’s none with you doth take delight.
If you into man’s company will thrust,
They call that fortune ill, and most accurst.
Men are ashamed with them you should be seen,13         35
You are so ragged, torn, and so unclean.
When I come in, much welcome do I find;
Great joy there is, and mirth in every mind.
And every door is open set, and wide,
And all within is busily employed.                                        40
There neighbors all invited are to see,
So14 proud they are in my dear company.

’Tis prodigality you brag so on,
Which never lets you rest till you are gone,
Calls in for help to beat you of doors,                                   45
His dear companions, drunkards, gamesters, whores.
What though you’re brave, and gay in outward show?
Within you’re15 foul and beastly, as you know.
Besides, debauchery is like a sink,
And you are father to that filthy stink.                                 50
True, I am threadbare, and am very lean,
Yet I am decent, sweet, and very clean.
I healthful am, my diet being spare;
You’re full of gouts and pains, and surfeits fear.
I am industrious new arts to find,                                         55
To ease the body, and to please the mind.
The world like to a wilderness would be,
If it were not for the poor’s industry.
For Poverty doth set awork the brains,
And all the thoughts to labor and take pains.                     60
The mind ne’er idle sits, but is employed;
Riches breed sloth, and fill it full of pride.
Riches, like a sow,16 in its own mire lies,17
But Poverty’s light, and like a bird still flies.18

  1. lose] loose 1653
  2. adored] adorn’d 1653
  3. so] that’s 1664, 1668
  4. com’st] Comest 1664
  5. go’st] Goest 1664; goest 1668
  6. Their] Nor 1653
  7. or] nor 1653
  8. to] can 1653
  9. doth] does 1664, 1668
  10. The] Some 1653
  11. wealth, and] Health, if 1653
  12. will] may 1664, 1668
  13. with them you should be seen,] of you, you are so mean, 1664, 1668
  14. So] And 1653
  15. you’re] you are 1653
  16. a sow,] Swine, 1664, 1668
  17. lies;] doth lye, 1664; doth lye; 1668
  18. But Poverty’s light, and like a bird still flies.] Light Poverty, like Birds, on high doth Fly. 1664; Light Poverty, like Birds, on high doth flye. 1668