Ye wise, instruct me to endure
An evil, which admits no cure:
Or, how this evil can be borne
Which breeds at once both hate and scorn.
Bare innocence is no support,
When you are tried in Scandal’s court.
Stand high in honour, wealth or wit;
All others, who inferior sit,
Conceive themselves in conscience bound
To join, and drag you to the ground.
Your altitude offends the eyes
Of those who want the power to rise.
The world, a willing stander-by
Inclines to aid a spacious lie:
Alas! They would not do you wrong;
But, all appearances are strong!
Yet, whence proceeds this weight we lay
On what deteracting people say?
For, let mankind discharge their tongnes,
In venom, till they burst their lungs.
Their utmost malice cannot make
Your head, or tooth, or finger ache;
Nor spoil your shape. Distort your face,
Or put one feature out of place?
Nor, will you find your fortune sink,
By what they speak or what they think
Nor can ten hundred thousand lies
Make you less virtuous, learn’d or wise.
The most effectual way to baulk
Their malice is – to let them talk.
Scandal against the onslaught of which innocence is no shield is an abominable evil. Crushing is its weight on the ordinary minds; it hangs over their heads like the sword of Damocles. And there is no way out of it. One’s prestige, wealth and wisdom seem to sink into insignificance because the whole world seem to be an accomplice of the slanderers. One’s feels doomed. But the post argues that all the prattle of the people cannot bring the least change in any part of our physique. The columny cannot snatch away anything from one’s virtues, wisdom or learning. Why should then it give jitters to our nerves. The best way to thwart the spite of the slanderers is not to take any notice of their talk, believing that he who spits on the moon merely spoils his own face.
Scandal is the most nerve shattering malady that one can face. One feels helpless against its onslaught. There seems to be no way out of it. Mere innocence is no shield against the ravages of calumny. Those to whom our wealth, learning or status is like a thorn in their flesh want to make us lick the dust. And it appears as if all the the world is in collusion with these slanderers. But the poet exhorts us not to be panicky in such a predicament. He argues that we should pay no heed to what these jealous wretches say against us. Because the malice and hatred vomited out by these people can neither bring the change in any part of our body nor can deprive us of our virtues, wealth or wisdom. The best way, according to the poet, to thwart their malice is to turn a deaf ear towards them.
Moral – The best way to combat scandal is to turn a deaf ear to it.