Quid fugis hominem, quem poteras et non timere? quid fugis aut quousque fugies? si quis pulsaverit nocte, faeneratorem putas: sub lectum ilico. si quem subito intrare senseris, tu foras exsilis. canis latrat, et cor tuum palpitat, sudor effunditur, anhelitus quatit, quaeris quid mentiaris ut faeneratorem differas, et, cum dilationem impetraveris, gaudes. funere tuo simulat se faenerator gravari, sed libenter impertit: quasi venator, qui feram cinxerit, securus est praedae. tu oscularis caput, amplecteris genua et quasi cervus sagittae toxico ictus paululum procedens tandem victus veneno procumbis aut quasi piscis, qui fuscina fuerit infixus, quocumque fugerit vulnus vehit. et vere piscis ille in esca mortem devorat, ille hamum gluttit, dum cibum quaerit, sed tamen hamum non videt, quem tegit praeda: tu hamum cernis et gluttis. hamus tuus faenus est creditoris, hamum voras et vermis te semper adrodit. ipsa est esca, quae decipit. itaque et tibi faenoris nec cibus usui est et hamus vulneri. an ignoras quia semel inlaqueatus nodo se magis, si fugiat, ipse constringit et intra retia positus fugiendo magis deicit super se retia? in plateis fugis, cum intra parietes tutus esse non possis. invenit te, cum voluerit, faenerator. denique ubi tempus impleveris, sicut lupus nocte inruit, dormire non sinit, exspectato die ad publicum trahit aut tabulis venditionis cogit subscribere. ut fureris pudoris dispendium, subscribis ilico venditurus avitum sepulchrum, paterno sane ut praetexatur aliquid verecundiae. emitur ieiunum solum, iactatur quod infecunda uendiderit, dispendiis oneraverit venditorem, et superioris temporis adscribuntur dispendiis damna praesentis. mox et laudata venduntur et inferuntur iam non instrumenta, sed vincula.
(Ambrose, De Tobia 26)
Why do you flee a man whom you could even not fear? Why do you flee, or whether will you flee? If anyone knocks at night, you think it is the usurer; straightway you are under the bed. If you notice someone entering suddenly, you leap out the door. A dog barks and your heart palpitates, perspiration breaks out, your panting shakes you, you seek how you may lie to put the usurer off, and when you have been granted a deferment, you rejoice. The usurer pretends he is worried about your ruin, but he gladly grants it; like the hunter who has netted a wild beast, he is sure of his prey. You kiss his head, you embrace his knees, and , like stag struck by a poisoned arrow, after going a little further you fall, overcome at length by the poison; or you are like a fish which has been caught on the hook, and wherever he flees, carries the wounding hook with him. And truly such a fish devours death in the bait, he swallows the fish-hook while he is seeking food, but yet he does not see the hook which the lure has concealed: you see the hook and yet swallow it. Your hook is the interest of the creditor. You devour the hook and the worm always gnaws you. It is the bait itself which deceives. And so to you also the food of interest is no advantage and the hook is a wound. Are you unaware that, once caught in the noose, the animal binds itself the tighter in the toils if it would escape, and that, being within the net, in attempting to escape it pulls the net over itself the more? You flee in the streets since you cannot be safe within walls. The usurer, when he wishes, finds you. Finally, when you have reached the end of your time, like a wolf in the night he rushes on you, he does not allow you to sleep, on the long-awaited day he drags you into public or compels you to subscribe to deeds of sale. That you may conceal your loss of decency, straightway you sign, intending to sell your ancestral tomb. In order to be sure that some respect for a father’s property may be provided, barren ground, it is said, is being bought. It is boasted that infertile land has been sold, that the seller has been burdened with expenses, and the difficulties of the present are assigned to the expenses of the past. Soon the much-vaunted lands also are sold, and no longer are documents brought in, but chains. (tr. Lois Miles Zucker)