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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

On a Travelling Speculator

By Philip Freneau (1752–1832)

[From The Poems of Philip Freneau. 1786.—Poems Written During the Revolutionary War, etc. 3d Ed. 1809.]

ON scent of game, from town to town he flew,

The soldier’s curse pursued him on his way;

Care in his eye, and anguish on his brow,

He seemed a sea-hawk watching for his prey.

With soothing words the widow’s mite he gained,

With piercing glance watched misery’s dark abode,

Filched paper scraps while yet a scrap remained,

Bought where he must, and cheated where he could.

Vast loads amassed of scrip, and who knows what;

Potosi’s wealth seemed lodged within his clutch,—

But wealth has wings (he knew) and instant bought

The prancing steed, gay harness, and gilt coach.

One Sunday morn, to church we saw him ride

In glittering state—alack! and who but he—

The following week, with Madam at his side,

To routs they drove—and drank Imperial tea!

In cards and fun the livelong day they spent,

With songs and smut prolonged the midnight feast,

If plays were had, to plays they constant went,

Where Madam’s top-knot rose a foot at least.

Three weeks, and more, thus passed in airs of state,

The fourth beheld the mighty bubble fail,—

And he, who countless millions owned so late,

Stopped short—and closed his triumphs in a jail.