Disticha Catonis, Book II

The Latin text is also available

If perchance you want to learn about tilling the soil,
Read Virgil; but if you seek to know rather
The powers of herbs, Macer will sing you his songs.
If you wish to know the Roman and Punic wars,
Ask Lucan, who told of the battles of Mars.
If you happen to love something, or want to learn of love by reading,
Seek out Ovid; but if this is your worry:
To live as a wise man, hear those things you may learn,
From which an old age free of vice is drawn:
So come closer and learn by reading what wisdom is.

1. If you can, even remember to halp people you don't know;
More precious than a kingdom it is to gain friends by kindness.

2. Avoid asking what are the secret things of God or heaven;
Since you are human, worry about human things.

3. Give up the fear of death; for it is foolish always
By fearing death to miss out on the joys of life.

4. Do not fight about something uncertain when you are angry;
Anger keeps the mind from being able to discern the truth.

5. Give goods quickly when the situation demands;
A thing is to be given when the time or the situation demands.

6. Flee that which is excessive; remember to rejoice in small things;
That craft is most safe which is born by a small stream.

7. Remember, prudent that you are, to keep that which you think shameful from your associates,
So that many will not blame that which displeases you alone.

8. I don't want you to think that crimes enrich bad men;
At times crimes are hidden, but with time they are obvious.

9. Do not disdain the powers of a small body;
He may be strong in counsel (though) nature denies him strength.

10. Yield at times to one whom you know not to be your equal;
We frequently see the victor conquered by the loser.

11. Do not contend in words with an associate;
Occasionally a great fight grows from few words.

12. Do not seek to figure out what God intends;
What he sets up for you, He figures out without you.

13. Always remember to avoid envy with great care,
Which, even when it is not harmful, neverless is bothersome to endure.

14. Be of strong mind when you are wrongly accused;
No one is happy for long who wins with an injust judgment.

15. Do not allude to the curses of a past quarrel;
It is bad to remember anger after arguments.

16. Neither praise nor blame yourself yourself;
This foolish people do, whom empty fame itches.

17. Make use of gains sparingly when riches abound,
Easily may be lost which took a long time to earn.

18. Be stupid when the time or situation demands;
To fake stupidity is at times the highest prudence.

19. Shun luxury, and also remember to avoid
The fault of avarice; for they are inimical to good repute.

20. Do not always believe someone who tells things;
Little credence is to be paid (to them), because they talk a lot.

21. The crimes you commit in drinking do not fail to recognize;
There is no fault in wine, but the fault is that of the drinker.

22. Entrust secret counsels to a close-mouthed associate;
Commit aid for the body to a trustworthy doctor.

23. Do not be bugged at unworthy successes;
Fortune indulges the evil that it may wound them. (Time wounds all heels)

24. Foresee that you bear the fortune of those things which come;
For more lightly does whatever we foresaw before wound us.

25. Do not give up your fortitude when things go wrong;
Keep up hope: hope alone does not desert man, not even in death.

26. The thing which seems fitting to you, do not give up;
Fortune has a forelock in front, after that is bald.
{Luck looks good coming, bad going}

27. Look at what has happened, and see that which is coming;
Imitate that god who looks in both directions (Janus).

28. Be more forceful so that you may strong, occasionally be more sparing {in eating, drinking, etc.}
A few things are owed to pleasure, more to health.

29. Never spurn public opinion alone,
Lest you please no one when you want to spurn many.

30. Let your health, which is foremost, be your main worry,
Nor blame the weather, when you yourself are the cause of pain.

31. Don't pay attention to dreams; for the human mind hopes for
That which it wishes when it is awake; in sleep it recognizes itself.