"always promising to pay, promising to pay, tomorrow, and dying today, insolvent..."
See in text (Economy)
Thoreau describes the situation of the indebted as a never-ending cycle in which aes alienum, another's brass, or money, acts as a figurative weight or pressure on the indebted. This pressure is applied and amplified until the indebted is crushed under the weight of the debt. The repetition of "promising to pay, promising to pay" helps to demonstrate the futile cycle that many suffer from until they eventually die in debt. The overall effect creates a tone of hopeless despair that Thoreau uses to prepare his readers to hear his suggestions on how to better their situations.