In the poem, "The Creditor to his Proud Debtor," by George Moses Horton, what is the significance?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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In George Moses Horton's poem, "The Creditor To His Proud Debtor," the bottom line (if you'll pardon the pun) is all about a debtor who is over-extended in terms of cash flow, has spend a great deal of money on fancy clothes, but now cannot pay for the things he "owns," or the nasty cigar he smokes, and he would not act as superior as he does if he would be forced to pay his creditor.

The idea seems to suggest that the man's life is a sham—an illusion, based upon things that he possess but does not own. The speaker says that though the debtor may "strut and boast," those days will soon be over. His day of "crowing" (shouting in exultation) and his bloom (youth) will soon fade, especially with the sheriff after him to pay his debts.

The speaker talks about the "blue smoke from your segar…", saying that it is offensive. He suggests that it would be wise for people to avoid this man with money in his pockets and clothes of the latest cut—for when the creditor collects his debts, the man will be little more than trash.

The poet goes onto to discuss their success in the eyes of the women they try to impress. Competition between the debtor and the speaker would even up with impressing the women if it were known that the debtor has no money.

Like you I then could step as light,

Before a flaunting maid;

As nicely could I clear my throat,

And to my tights my eyes devote;

It is difficult to say whether the debtor now speaks or if it is the speaker putting himself in the debtor's place. Had the speaker the money to do so, he could walk with his nose in the air, and ignore the poor as well. He would enjoy a life of casual living if he had the money, sitting "cross-leg'd on my chair," in the shade: something a poor man could not afford to do. He would also wear the nicest clothes, but it would all disappear once he paid his debts, for he certainly does not have the kind of life or monetary independence he would need to live such a seemingly good way.


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