What do you think of people who spread rumors? Are you one such? Rumor mongers are certainly not thought of in a kindly fashion. We call them gossips or tale bearers, not words of praise. And how about those people who relish the rumors, listening avariciously, almost licking their lips at the prospect of some juicy gossip?
The best, most visually evocative description of this kind of person comes from The Aeneid by the Roman poet Virgil. Here it is in Robert Fagles’s translation:
Rumor, swiftest of all the evils in the world.
She thrives on speed, stronger for every stride,
slight with fear at first, soon soaring into the air
she treads her ground and hides her head in the clouds.
She is the last, they say, our Mother Earth produced.
Bursting in rage against the gods, (Mother Earth) bore a sister
for Coeus and Enceladus: Rumor, quicksilver afoot
and swift on the wing, a monster, horrific, huge
and under every feather on her body–what a marvel–
an eye that never sleeps and as many tongues as eyes
and as many raucous mouths and ears pricked up for news.
By night she flies aloft, between the earth and sky,
whirring across the dark, never closing her lids
in soothing sleep. By day she keeps her watch,
crouched on a peaked roof or palace turret,
terrorizing the great cities, clinging as fast
to her twisted lies as she clings to words of truth.
If you are so inclined, the next time you are about to spread a rumor (or listen to one), reflect on that image of eyes and tongues and mouths and ears.
They are all yours if you want them!