Disticha Catonis, Book IV

The Latin text is also available.

Whoever you are, if you wish to lead a safe life,
Do not fix your mind on faults which are contrary to character.
Always remember to read these precepts over and over;
You will find a teacher through whom you can change.

1. Spurn riches, if you wish to be happy in mind,
For those who chase after them, always beg as misers.

2. Necessities from nature will never be lacking to you,
If you are content with what need demands.

3. If you are careless and do not steer your affairs with reason,
Do not say that fortune blind, which she is not.

4. Love money, but do not love it too much for its own sake,
Which no one good and honest seeks to gain.

5. When you get rich, remember to take care of your body;
A sick rich man has wealth, but he does not have himself.

6. Just as you bear blows in school now and again from the teacher,
Accept your father's overlordship when he breaks out in anger in words.

7. Do things which are worthwhile, but remember to avoid
Those in which there is fault and no sure hope for travail.

8. What you can give, give freely to the asker;
For to have done right with goods is to be considered as gain.

9. Whatever is suspect to you, immediately test what it is;
For those things which are at first ignored often harm.

10. When the cursed pleasure of Venus holds you in its grasp,
Do not indulge in gluttony, which is pleasant to the stomach.

11. When you take it upon yourself to fear all living beings,
One above all is to be feared most by you: man.

12. If your strength in body is great for you,
See to it that you are wise; thus you will be considered to be a strong man. (sapientia et fortitudo)

13. Ask for aid from your associates when you are in travail;
No one is a better doctor than a faithful friend.

14. When you yourself are a killer, why should the victim die for you?
It is foolishness to hope for salvation in the death of another.

15. If you are looking for an associate or a faithful friend,
It is for you to look not at the fortune but the life of the man.

16. Make use of riches you have gained, avoid the name of miser;
What use are riches to you, if you live like a poor man?

17. If you want to keep a good reputation while you are alive,
Make sure to avoid in mind those things which are evil joys of life.

18. Since you are wise in mind, do not mock old age;
For whoever is growing old, there is a childish mind in him (anacoluthon).

19. Learn something; for when fortune suddenly leaves,
Art (a trade?) remains and never leaves the life of a man.

20. Look quietly upon all things that people say;
The speech of men hides their ways and reveals them also.

21. Practice zeal in whatever art you have taken up,
That consideration may aid native talent, and practice likewise the hand.

22. Do not worry much about the times of fate which will come;
He does not fear death who knows how to spurn life.

23. Learn, but from the learned; teach yourself the unlearned;
For the knowledge of good things should be spread abroad.

24. Drink what you can (properly), if you wish to live healthy;
The cause of bad disease is most frequently some kind of pleasure.

25. Praise openly whatever you have tested out,
Live so that you are not then accused of the crime of flightiness.

26. In peaceful times always be on the lookout for adverse things,
And again, in bad times, remember always to hope for better.

27. Do not cease learning; worry increases wisdom;
Rarely is given to prudence a long space of time.

28. Praise sparingly; for the one you have often put to the test,
One day will show you what a friend he has been.

29. Do not be ashamed when you wish to be taught what you do not know;
To know something is praiseworthy, blamable is to not want to learn anything.

30. Between Venus and Bacchus there is both struggle and pleasure;
Embrace that which is pleasant in your mind; but avoid the strife.

31. Remember to avoid those who are depressed and silent in their minds;
When a river is peaceful, perhaps deeper water is hidden. (Still waters run deep).

32. When your fortune in things displeases you,
Look at that of your neighbor, which will seem to you worse.

33. Whatever you can, try; for to seize the oar at the shore
Is far safer than to spread the sail on the high sea.

34. Do not contend wrongly against a just man;
For God is always angry at unjust anger.

35. Do not weep over stolen goods,
Rather be happy, if it happens you have something (left).

36. It is a grave matter to accept the loss of goods;
There are some things which a friend ought patiently to bear.

37. Do not promise yourself a long stretch of life;
Wherever you go the shadow of bodily death follows you.

38. Please God with incense, that the calf may grow without (to) the plow;
Do not think to please God when sacrifice is made to Him to by killing. (Ps. 49 and 50).

39. Give way to fortune when hurt, give way to the powerful;
Whoever is able to harm might now and again be able to help.

40. When you have sinned in some way, charge yourself right away;
When you cure wounds pain is remedy for pain (similia similibus, the preacher's way).

41. Never condemn a friend of long standing,
He has changed his ways, but remember his first merits.

42. Be gracious in your business dealings, to those to whom you may be dearer,
So that you won't bear the name of "ingracious" (a person who makes use of others' work without thanking them).

43. Avoid being suspected so that you won't be miserable forever,
For death is most proper for the timid and suspected.

44. When you have bought your own slaves for your use,
And you call them servants, remember they are still men.

45. You should always seize the first occasion immediately,
Lest you seek again that which you ignored previously.

46. Do not rejoice at the sudden death of evil-doers;
Happy die those who life is without blemish.

47. If you have a wife, lest fame and fortune labor,
Avoid the enemy who has the name of friend.

48. If you come to know many things through study,
See to it that you learn many things, from life be willing to learn nothing (negative missing here, or positive, see Boas).

49. You marvel that I write these verses in bare words?
This brevity brings about, to join in one thought two (lines).