A Poem by Horatio Alger, Jr.

“What else do we live for in this world beside?”

Alas! ‘t is the question of ten times a day,
That comes on the wind, or that floats on the tide,
And creeps in the houses where men go to pray.

What else do we live for than get such a wife
As this of the banker of our faint description?

What else is the end of our fashionable life
From which men escape as they would from conscription?

What else is the reason so few natives marry,
Than this, that extravagance leads on to ruin?

It is because few men are able to carry
The load of this baking and roasting and stewing,
Of buying and wasting extravagant meat,
Where women are dying of “nothing to eat;”
Where men in corruption so rapidly tending,
In morals and wealth in bankruptcy ending.

That forging and stealing and breaches of trust,
And ten thousand arts of the confidence game,
And follies uncounted of men “on a bust,”
Are follies and crimes of this age to our shame,
Till angels who witness the folly so wide
Extended from palace to farm-house and cot,
Might wonder if mortals life’s objects forgot,
Or Merdle’s position is man’s common lot?