Receive and count a bag of gold;
His spectacles he clear'd,
And on his nostrils rear'd,
Then moved his table toward the light,
To gain an unobstructed sight.
The pieces one by one he took,
And fix'd on either side his look;
The edge he search'd with care,
To find deficience there;
Next to the touchstone it applied,
And by the current standard tried.
Then reach'd his balance nicely made,
Which smallest things minutely weigh'd;
The piece which pass'd his view
Into the scale he threw,
Accounting what he must abate
For every atom short of weight.
Soon from the wretch I turn'd away,
Idolater of shining clay;
But Conscience me here check'd,
And chid my self-neglect;
She back me on a sudden drew,
My observation to renew.
'You,' Conscience said, 'that wretch despise,
Who yet may teach you to be wise;
He, with a mind full bent,
On his own gain intent,
His short-lived riches tells and weighs --
You thus should number all your days.
'Blest JESUS warn'd that, here below,
Misers would in their conduct show
More zeal for short-lived toys,
Than saints for endless joys:
If saints and misers we compare,
The worldly-minded wisest are.'
My conscience then my thought improved,
And me to think of Judgment moved,
When every act, word, thought,
To GOD's tribunal brought,
The Searcher of our hearts will try,
More nicely than the miser's eye.
On my past time I then reflect,
Deploring sadly my neglect:
Vast treasure I had heap'd,
And should at death have reap'd,
Had I the minutes, as they roll'd,
Heeded, as that vile wretch his gold.
In vanity I spent my prime:
In age I wasted precious time --
Time which I should employ
'To purchase endless joy --
Time which, when once away it flies,
I never, never can reprise.
I nothing should too dear esteem,
My heedless minutes to redeem: --
O that I had the power
To live a year each hour,
That I might, ere I breathed my last,
Retrieve my idle minutes past!