On Defamation by James Wilson

Of all the evils that attend this life,
The source of hatred, pain, ill-will, and strife,
Is that base talent of a sland’ring tongue,
Less’ning what’s good, and magnifying wrong
Say muse from whence all defamation springs,
That in it’s train so many evils brings,
And spreads from beggars up to lordly things.
By all detested, yet by all approv’d,
Rail’d at by all, yet cherish’d and belov’d.
Strange contradiction! can th’ immortal soul
Let such a viper reign without controul?
Can human beings leave the paths of right,
And basely act the cringing hypocrite?

It reigns, ’tis plain, the gentle muse reply’d;
Would you avoid it, hate low thinking pride.
Shun baneful Envy with her tainted breath,
And cruel Malice which pursues to death.
Ne’er let thy purse contain ill-gotten pelf,
But love thy neighbour as thou dost thyself.
Then will thy tongue vile slanders ne’er repeat,
But accents from it drop as honey sweet.

From: Wilson, James, Poems, Pastoral, Moral, Religious , and Political, 1778, T Angus: Newcastle, pp. 20-21.

Date: 1778

By: James Wilson (1742-1798)

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