Disticha Catonis, Book I (trans. J. Marchand)

The Latin text is also available.

1. If God is a spirit, as the songs tell us,
He is to be worshiped above all with a pure mind.

2. Always keep alert, nor be given to sleep;
For continuous idleness offers food for vice.

3. I think the first virtue to be keeping your tongue;
He is close to God who knows how to keep quiet properly.

4. Avoid strongly being contrary to yourself;
He agrees with no one who disagrees with himself.

5. If you look at the life of those (and their ways of life)
Who find fault with others, {you will find that} nobody is without fault.

6. Things you have which are harmful, though dear, let go;
In time, usefulness should be put before wealth.

7. Be constant and kind, as the case demands;
The wise man changes his ways as time demands without fault.

8. Believe nothing blindly of a wife complaining about the servants;
For often a wife hates the one the husband likes.

9. When you warn somebody who does not want to be warned,
If he is dear to you, do not desist in what you have begun.

10. Do not exchange words with a wordy person;
Speech is given to all, wisdom of mind (good sense) to few.

11. Love others in such a way that your are a dear friend to yourself;
So be good to the good, so that bad things will not happen to you.

12. Flee from rumors, nor try to be taken as the author of them,
For it does not harm anyone to be silent, to be spoken may harm.

13. Do not consider a thing promised to you to be certain;
Surety is rare, because many say many things.

14. When someone praises you, remember to be your own judge;
Do not believe of others about you more than you believe.

15. Remember to tell publicly of favors by others;
And you yourself, when you do good to others, be silent about it.

16. When, having grown old, you complain about the deeds and sayings of others,
Let those come back to you that you did as a youth.

17. Do not pay any attention if someone talks behind your back (with silent speech);
The self-conscious man thinks everything is said about him.

18. When you are happy, watch out for adverse things;
The end does not always follow the same course as that begun.

19. Since the life given to us is doubtful and fragile,
Do not place your hope in the death of another.

20. When your poor friend gives you a small gift,
Accept it happily and remember to praise fully.

21. Since nature created you as a naked infant,
Remember to bear the burden of poverty patiently.

22. Do not fear that which is the the final end of life:
Whoever fears death misses out on the joys of life.

23. If no friend stands up for you as you deserve,
Do not accusee the gods, but scold yourself.

24. So that you won't be lacking, keep from using up what you have gained,
And, so that you may keep what you have, always pretend you don't have them.

25. That which you can lend do not promise twice to anyone,
Do not be a windbag if you want to be considered to be a good man.

26. Whoever dissimilates in words but is not at heart a faithful friend,
Treat him the same way: thus sleight is deluded by sleight (Piers).

27. Do not accept men who talk with meaningless words (have smooth on their tongue);
The pipe sings sweetly, when the fowler deceives the bird.

28. When you have sons rather than riches, then instruct
Them in the arts, so that they may be able to live a life without riches.

29. Take that which is cheap to be dear, that dear to be cheap;
Thus you will be known neither as greedy nor avaricious.

30. Those things you are accustomed to blame do not do yourself;
It is bad for a wise man when his own guilt comes back (to haunt him)

31. Ask for whatever is right or what seems proper;
For it is foolish to ask for that which might rightly be denied.

32. Do not promote the unknown over the known;
Known things are subject to judgment, unknown to chance.

33. Since fickle life turns on uncertain perils,
Consider each day you struggle through a gain.

34. When (you are sure) you can win, now and again give in to a buddy;
Sometimes good friends are kept by giving in.

35. Do not hesitate, when you are seeking great things, to spend a little;
For in such matters good behavior requires expenditures.

Here there is a variant, cited by Chase: 'his etenim pressos contingit gloria rara' (fame is rare for anyone close in these matters), which makes better sense, but lectio difficilior?

36. Beware of starting a fight with someone who is closely joined to you;
Anger brings about hatred; harmony nourishes love.

37. When the pain of servants' faults pushes you to anger,
Get hold of yourself, so that you may spare your own (not harm yourself).

38. Conquer the one you can conquer now and again slowly (do not be in too much a hurry to conquer someone);
The greatest virtue in human matter is always patience.

39. Preserve with greater effort what you have already gained;
When labor is set at naught, human need grows.

40. Be a rich friend now and again to known friends,
When you are fortunate, but always to yourself.
Here again Chase differs, with:
interdum notis et largus amicis
fueris, dando semper tibi proximus esto.

You are richly generous to known friends now and again,
In giving always be your own best friend.