(The work begins with monostichs (one-liners); the distichs (couplets) proper begin with Book I.)
Cum animaduerterem, quam plurimos grauiter in uia morum errare, succurrendum opinioni eorum et consulendum famae existimaui, maxime ut gloriose uiuerent et honorem contingerent. nunc te, fili karissime, docebo, quo pacto morem animi tui conponas. igitur praecepta mea ita legito, ut intellegas. legere enim et non intellegere neclegere est.
When I noticed how very many go seriously wrong in their manner of living I concluded that I must apply a corrective to their belief and take counsel of the experience of mankind in order that they may live most gloriously and attain honor. Now I will teach thee, dearest son, in what way thou mayest fashion a rule for thy life. Therefore, so read my precepts that thou mayest understand them, for to read and not to-understand is equivalent to not reading.
Pray to God.
The text is from The Distichs of Cato: a famous medieval textbook, tr. Wayland Johnson Chase, Univ. of Wisconsin Studies in the Social Sciences and History, Number 7, 1922 [WID Lc 25 42].