Distichs, Book III

[Hoc quicumque uolet carmen cognoscere lector,
Cum praecepta ferat quae sunt gratissima uitae,    
Commoda multa feret; sin autem spreuerit illud,
Non me scriptorem, sed se fastidiet ipse.]

[Whatever reader shall desire to know this poem, will
gain many advantages, since it contains maxims which are
very applicable to life. But if he reject it,
he will hurt not me, the writer, but himself.]

1.    Instrue praeceptis animum, ne discere cessa;
Nam sine doctrina uita est quasi mortis imago.
Learn what both life and precepts teach, and so
Life's fulness have which th' untaught never know.

2.    Cum recte uiuas, ne cures uerba malorum:
Arbitrii non est nostri, quid quisque loquatur.
Upright, care not if bad men thee deride;
'Tis not within our power men's tongues to guide.

3.    Productus testis, saluo tamen ante pudore,
Quantumcumque potes, celato crimen amici.
When as a witness thou must needs appear,
Favor thy friend, but keep thy good name clear.

4.    Sermones blandos blandosque cauere memento:
Simplicitas ueri forma est, laus ficta loquentis.
Deem soft cajoling speech an empty cheat;
Truth naked is, but flatt'ry cloaks deceit.

5.    Segnitiem fugito, quae uitae ignauia fertur;
Nam cum animus languet, consumit inertia corpus.
Inaction's sure to waste one's life away;
Sloth in the mind doth on the body prey.

6.    Interpone tuis interdum gaudia curis,
Ut possis animo quemuis sufferre laborem.
With pleasure lighten now and then thy care,
That so life's burdens thou mayst better bear.

7.    Alterius dictum aut factum ne carpseris umquam,
Exemplo simili ne te derideat alter.
Blame not what other men may say or do,
Lest thee they jeer and for the same thing, too.

8.    Quod tibi sors dederit tabulis suprema notato
Augendo serua, ne sis quem fama loquatur.
Thy heritage preserve and multiply,
Lest thou the world's harsh censure justify.

9.    Cum tibi diuitiae superant in fine senectae,
Munificus facito uiuas, non parcus, amicis.
If wealth abounds, when life draws near its end,
Be not a stingy, but a generous friend.

10.    Utile consilium dominus ne despice serui
Si prodest, sensum nullius tempseris umquam.
Thy slave's wise counsel, do not proudly scorn
But prize good sense e'en in the lowly born.

11.    Rebus et in censu si non est quod fuit ante,
Fac uiuas contentus eo quod tempora praebent.
If from thy wealth and place thou dost descend,
Still be content with what the seasons send.

12.    Uxorem fuge ne ducas sub nomine dotis,
Nec retinere uelis, Si coeperit esse molesta.
For dowry take not to thyself a wife,
Nor keep her with thee if she spoils thy life.

13.    Multorum disce exemplo, quae facta sequaris,
Quae fugias: uita est nobis aliena magistra.
From others' actions seek to find the clue
To what thou best mayst shun and best mayst do.

14.    Quod potes, id temptato, operis ne pondere pressus
Subcumbat labor et frustra inceptata relinquas.
Begin what thou canst end, without avail
Is that begun which speedily doth fail.

15.    Quod factum scis non recte, nolito silere,
Ne uideare malos uelle inritare tacendo.
Speak out when wrong thou knowest hath been done,
Lest thou thro' silence urge the culprit on.

16.    Iudicis auxilium sub iniqua lite rogato:
Ipsae etiam leges cupiunt ut iure rogentur.
When sued unjustly to the judge apply;
The Law's intent is wrong to rectify.

17.    Quod merito pateris, patienter ferre memento,
Cumque reus tibi sis, ipsum te iudice damna.
To what thou dost deserve with calm submit;
If thou hast guilt, chastise thyself for it.

18.    Multa legas facito, tum lectis neglege multa;
Nam miranda canunt, sed non credenda poetae.
Read much and much of it forget:
'Tis well t' admire but not believe what poets tell.

19.    Inter conuiuas fac sis sermone modestus,
Ne dicare loquax, cum uis urbanus haberi.
Talk little at thy feasts lest men esteem
Thee wordy, though thou fain wouldst witty seem.

20.    Coniugis iratae noli tu uerba timere;
Nam lacrimis struit insidias, cum femina plorat.
Thy wroth wife's speech fear not.
But have a care; A woman by her weeping can ensnare.

21.    Utere quaesitis, sed ne uidearis abuti:
Qui sua consumunt, cum dest, aliena secuntur.
Use without waste whatever gains thou'st made;
Who wastes his own, will others' rights invade.

22.    Fac tibi proponas, mortem non esse timendam:
Quae bona si non est, finis tamen illa malorum est.
Judge not that death's a thing to apprehend;
If 't is not good, yet 't is of bad the end.

23.    Uxoris linguam, si frugi est, ferre memento;
Namque malum est, non uelle pati nec posse tacere.
Bear thy wife's tongue when she hath useful been;
Impatience and retort alike are sin.

24.    Aequa diligito caros pietate parentes,
Nec matrem offendas, dum uis bonus esse parenti.
For both dear parents equal love e'er hold;
Be not to father fond: to mother cold.



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, pp. 29-15 [WID Lc 25 42].