These are nearly all briefly represented by the image used for the force of money by Dante, of mast and sail:—

Quali dal vento le gonfiate vele
Caggiono avvolte, poi chè l‘alber fiacca
Tal cadde a terra la fiera crudele.

[LE: Inferno, vii. 13; compare Unto this Last, § 74n. (GPL: note at top of left column.]

The image may be followed out, like all of Dante’s, into as close detail as the reader chooses. Thus the stress of the sail must be proportioned to the strength of the mast, and it is only in unforeseen danger that a skilful seaman ever carries all the canvas his spars will bear; states of mercantile languor are like the flap of the sail in a calm; of mercantile precaution, like taking in reefs; and mercantile ruin is instant on the breaking of the mast. (I mean by credit-power, the general impression on the national mind that a sovereign, or any other coin, is worth so much bread and cheese—so much wine—so much horse and carriage—or so much fine art: it may be really worth, when tried, less or more than is thought: the thought of it is the credit-power.)

Last modified 11 March 2019