Silent about virtue and swift to act wrongly,
one who does not slander others may still be called good.
More vile than violating virtue and committing crime
is slandering a man, then smiling to his face.
Virtue declares that dying, not living, will bring
better rewards to deceiving backbiters.
Though you speak unkind words to a man’s face,
do not talk behind his back heedless of consequent harm.
Though his every word is full of kindly virtue,
a man’s mean backbiting will betray an empty heart.
If a man spreads tales of others’ faults,
his own worst faults will be exposed and spread.
Not knowing the companionable art of cheerful conversation,
men estrange even friends by divisive discourse.
If men are disposed to spread the faults of friends,
what deadly harm might they do to strangers?
Only because she weighs duty well does Earth bear the weight
of those who wait for a man’s departure to defame him.
If men perceived their own faults as they do the faults of others,
could misfortune ever come to them?