CATO's MORAL DISTICHS Englished in Couplets.

PHILADELPHIA: Printed and Sold by B. FRANKLIN, 1735.

[Page iii]


THE Manuscript Copy of this Translation of Cato's Moral Distichs, happened into my Hands some Time since, and being my self extreamly pleased with it, I thought it might be no less acceptable to the Publick; and there­fore determined to print it as soon as I should have conve­nient Leisure and Opportunity. It was done by a Gentle­man amongst us (whose Name or Character I am strictly forbid to mention, tho' it might give some Advantage to my Edition) for the Use of his own Children; But in my Opinion, it is no unfit or unprofitable Entertainment for those of riper Years. For certainly, such excellent Pre­cepts of Morality, contain'd in such short and easily-remem­ber'd Sentences, may to Youth particularly be very service­able in the Conduct of Life, since there can scarce happen any Affair of Importance to us, in which we may need Ad­vice, but one or more of these Distichs suited to the Occa­sion, [Page iv]will seasonably occur to the Memory, if the Book has been read and studied with a proper Care and Attention.

When I obtained Leave to make this Publication, I pro­cured also the following Account of the Author and his Work: for I thought something of the kind necessary to be prefix'd to it.

In most Places that I am acquainted with, so great is the present Corruption of Manners, that a Printer shall find much more Profit in such Things as flatter and encou­rage Vice, than in such as tend to promote its contrary. It would be thought a Piece of Hypocrisy and pharisaical Ostentation in me, if I should say, that I print these Dis­tichs more with a View to the Good of others than my own private Advantage: And indeed I cannot say it; for I con­fess, I have so great Confidence in the common Virtue and Good Sense of the People of this and the neighbouring Pro­vinces, that I expect to sell a very good Impression.

[Page v]

Some ACCOUNT of the fol­lowing Piece, and Conjectures concerning its AUTHOR.

THO' the Original of these Moral Distichs, by being put into the Hands of Boys of the lower Forms at the Latin School, have been frequently considered as an Entertainment suitable only to such childish Years; yet great and able Judges have conceived a much more honourable Esteem of them. They have been commented on by divers Authors, but particularly by Erasmus: They were translated into Greek by Maximus Planudes, a native of Greece, and one of the most learned of his Age. But the great Joseph Scaliger, dissatisfyed with that Performance, gave another most elegant Version of them into the same Language, which has been divers times printed. And tho' a Critic in that Tongue, on viewing the Version, would not easily be induced to believe it could be better'd, yet it has been twice since attempted by two other several Hands, mentioned by Fabricius. So that at least four Greek Translations of them have appeared. Into the European Languages, as French, Italian, Dutch, there have been many Translations, and into each of them by several Hands. They have also been divers Times render'd into our own; but the Author of this never saw any of them, that by Charles Hoole, made in plain and low Lan­guage for the Use of School-boys, only excepted; and therefore he knows not but they may have been much better done before: But as he intended them (as th [...] are here finished) solely for the Use of his own Children, with some of their Acquaintance, and never for publick View, he is no way solicitous what others may have perform'd, provided these as they are, will answer the End they were intended for. Those who find Fault with them may try to do better on any Score of them together, and then they will be more capable of judging, whether it is a very easy Task throughout the [Page vi]whole, to comprize the Sense of two Latin Hexameters in twenty Syllables in English, with a smooth Cadence, and tagg'd with a strong Rhime.

Of the Author of these Distichs there have been various Sentiments; they are call'd Cato's, but they could neither be the Work of the Censor, the elder of that Name, nor of the much greater Man the younger, call'd Uticensis from the Place of his Death: For in these Verses, Virgil, Macer, Ovid, and Lucan, are mention'd, none of whom wrote till after the Death of both these Cato's. The first of the Antients whose Works remain, that appears to have known them, is one Vindicianus a Physician, who in a Letter to the Emperor Valentinian the elder, about the Year 370, quotes one of these Lines: And in a Glossary printed at the end of the Autores L. Latinae, said to be Isidore's, who died about the Year 630, the uncommon Word Officipedi is found, and Cato is expressly quoted for it as an Author; which Word [in another Declension] is met with in the 4th Book, Numb. 42 of these Distichs

Some have thought him a later Christian Writer; but for the Reasons given he could not be late, nor could he be a Christian; for no Christian would have been Author of that Distich, Lib. 4. Numb. 14.

Cum sis ipse nocens moritur cur Victima pro te?
Stultitia est morte alterius sperare Salutem.

Since this is directly repugnant to the main Fundamental of the Chris­tian Religion. Scaliger's Opinion, upon a due Consideration of the Stile (which is allow'd by all but Boxhornius to be correct and pure) and of all other Circumstances, seems to be the most just; which is, that he was an unconverted Gentile, and lived about the Times of Commodus or Severus; that is, towards the beginning of the third Century: To which may be added, that 'tis probable he might be inclin'd to the Doctrine of the Py­thagoreans and Platonists, which was revived and came much into Repute a­bout that Time. But whoever the Author was, notwithstanding they have a Fault very common with most of the Ancients, that is, that there is scarce any Order in [...] divers Repetitions, as also that sometimes the Thought is either low or obscure, (which 'tis hoped is somewhat mended in the present Version) yet they have been very justly esteemed in all Ages past, since they were known; and in those to come may con­tinue justly to deserve the same.

[Page 7]


IF God be Spirit, as old Texts assure,
Him chief o'er all with purest mind adore.
Be still industrious, too much Sleep refrain;
For Vice from Sloth does constant Succours gain.
Think the first Virtue's well to rule the Tongue;
He's godlike wise, who ne'er employs it wrong.
Consistent always with thy self be found;
Who thwarts himself, would thwart all Mankind round.
If o'er Mens Lives and Deeds thou cast an Eye,
While all spy Faults, free from them none thou'lt spy.
[Page 8]
The Charms of hurtful Joys, tho' sweet, refuse:
'Tis sometimes Gain ev'n Wealth itself to lose.
Or grave or gay appear, to suit the Time:
The Wife may Manners change without a Crime.
Let not your Wife's weak Humours Anger move
Against a Servant you've just Cause to love.
When thou reproves a Friend, tho' scarce he'll bear,
Tho' much he frown, continue still thy Care.
Wage not with Men of Words, a noisy War;
Words all have got, Few Wisdom to their Share.
So love thy Friends, and so thy Favours deal,
As that thy self their Want may never feel.
Spread not Reports, lest they be thought thy own:
From Tatling Mischief springs, from Silence none.
Let not another's Promise thine engage
To plight thy Faith; 'tis now a faithless Age.
When others praise thee, judge thy self alone;
Better thou'rt to thy self than others known.
A Friend's good Offices aloud proclaim;
But thy good Deeds to others never name.
[Page 9]
While in Old-age you others Conduct tell,
Think whether in your Youth your own was well.
What Men in private whisper, never mind;
The Guilty always think themselves design'd.
While Fortune's smiling, bear a watchful Eye
On her Reverse, her Favours swiftly fly.
Since on so frail a Tenure Life is held,
Thy Hopes on Death's Reversions never build.
The poor Man's Present from his scanty Store
With Thanks receive, as if its Worth were more.
Since Nature form'd thee naked in the Womb,
Grudge not at Want; it does thy State become
Fear not the End of Life, it ends thy Care;
He present Life destroys, who Death does fear.
When to thy Merit, Friends ungrateful prove,
Accuse not Heaven, but with more Judgment love.
Spare but to spend, and Spending spare so well,
As neither now nor after want to feel.
Promise not twice what may at once be done,
Lest thou be bounteous deem'd in Words alone.
[Page 10]
Him, who is kind in Words, but false in Heart,
In his own Coin repay, with Art for Art.
[Yet with unblemish'd Honour act thy Part.]
No Stress on smooth-tongu'd Mens Professions lay;
Sweet plays the Fowler's Pipe to gain his Prey.
If thou hast Children, but no Wealth to give,
Then teach them Arts, that they may learn to live.
Mean things as Great, great things as Mean esteem;
So neither prodigal nor near thou'lt seem.
Act not thy self what thou art wont to blame;
When Teachers slip themselves, 'tis double Shame.
Crave what is Just and Honest, nought beside;
'Tis vain to ask what may be well deny'd.
Th' unknown to what thou knows do not prefer;
For Judgment governs here, Chance only there.
Since Life's frail Course through certain Danger lies,
Each new-come Day as a new Purchase prize.
Tho' in the right, yield sometimes to a Friend;
Friendship by kind Complaisance is maintain'd.
In quest of greater Matters, spare not small;
'Tis Profit that in Love unites us all.
[Page 11]
With Intimates no trifling Quarrels move;
Wrath Hate begets, Concord increases Love.
When Servants Failings thy Resentments warm,
Thy Anger check, lest thou their Persons harm.
Your Friends o'ercome not always when you can;
For Patience often speaks the greater Man.
What thou hast gain'd with Toil, preserve with Care:
Heavy's the Task past Losses to repair.
In Plenty let thy Friends thy Bounty share;
Yet make they self thy most peculiar Care.


YOU who in Husbandry would Skill attain,
May Virgil read; or if you'd Knowledge gain
In healing Plants, these you'll in Macer find,
With Cures prescrib'd for Ails of every kind.
If Civil Wars and Rome's sad Broils you'd know,
Lucan those dire Exploits of Mars will show.
Or if by Rules you'd guide Love's gentler Flame,
Ovid consult: But if your nobler Aim
To steer your Life by Wisdom's Laws aspire,
Read here, and learn the Prudence you desire.
[Page 12]
Even to Strangers thy good Deeds extend;
'Tis better than a Crown to gain a Friend.
Search not God's Secrets, nor his Works on high;
Mind what concerns thee as thou'rt born to die.
Avoid the Fear of Death, it idle shews
For fear of losing Life, its Joys to lose.
Of Doubts contend not in an angry mind:
Wrath clouds the Soul, and does the Judgment blind.
Genteely spend as Circumstances crave:
'Tis sometimes Loss penuriously to save
Avoid Excess, pursue the Golden Mean;
'Tis sasest Sailing in the gentle Stream.
What gives thee Shame, reveal not unto more,
Lest Many blame what but One blam'd before.
Think not th'Unrighteous in their Crimes succeed;
Time that conceals reveals an impious Deed.
No feebler Creature's Want of Strength despise;
For Nature Want of Strength by Skill supplies.
When over-match'd, in time resolve to yield;
Thus oft the Victor's by the Vanquish'd foil'd.
[Page 13]
Shun with thy Friends contentious Words to use;
For Discord oft from trifling Words ensues.
All Search of Fate by Divination fly:
God without thee thy Lot decrees on high.
Create not Envy by a sumptuous Dress;
For tho' it hurts not, 't may affect thy Peace.
Be not dismay'd when Judges do thee Wrong;
The Cause that's gain'd unjustly, thrives not long.
In Quarrels past name not what was unkind:
To think on't argues an ungenerous Mind.
Nor praise nor blame thy self, for only Fools
Thus court Vain-glory by preposterous Rules.
Manage with Care thy Wealth, Expence restrain;
Th' Estate's soon lost that took long time to gain.
A Fool, when there's Occasion for't, appear;
'Tis sometimes Wisdom, Folly's Mask to wear.
With equal care avoid a Miser's Name
And Prodigal's; they both will wound thy Fame.
Believe not all, some kind of People tell;
They talk not always true, who talk a deal.
[Page 14]
Forgive not what thou dost provok'd by Wine;
'Tis not the Liquor's fault; to drink was Thime.
Thy Counsels to a trusty Friend declare;
Thy Health commit to wise Physicians Care.
At worthless Mens Advancement never grieve:
Who highest mount, the heaviest Fall receive.
Still for the Worst to come, thy Mind prepare;
So with more Ease thou Ills foreseen wilt bear.
In adverse Times let not thy Courage fail:
Still hope, 'gainst Hope ev'n Death can scarce prevail.
Slip not the Season when it suits thy Mind;
Time wears his Lock before, is bald behind.
View well what's past, and what may next ensue,
And Janus-like at once both Seasons view.
Thy Health to guard, Pleasures sometimes refrain;
To Pleasure somewhat give, but Health's the Main.
Slight not the general Vogue while thou'rt but one,
Lest while thou slights the most thou pleases none.
Manage thy Health 'bove all with prudent Care,
Nor for thy Follies blame th' unwholesome Air.
[Page 15]
Regard not Dreams, the Mind will still pursue
In Sleep, what waking it had most in View.


WHOE'ER will on these Lines some Thoughts bestow,
Which wholesome Rules for Life's sure Conduct show,
Will reap th' Advantage: Those who them despise
Will prove not mine, but their own Enemies.
No Pains t' adorn thy Mind with Knowledge spare;
Without it Life does Death's dull Image bear.
For Loss of Pelf 'gainst Fortune don't exclaim;
Virtue not Wealth gives Happiness and Fame.
Scandal, while thou uprightly acts, deride:
'Tis not in human Power Mens Tongues to guide.
When as an Evidence thou must appear,
Favour thy Friend, but keep thy Conscience clear.
Against soft soothing Speeches guard thy Heart;
Truth Plainness chooses, Frand dissembling Art.
To Sloth, Life's great Consumption, give not way;
Sloth in the Mind does on the Body prey.
[Page 16]
By turns with Pleasure soften anxious Care,
That thy chear'd Mind Life's Load may easier bear.
To censure others Deeds or Words decline;
Lest in their turn, they make as free with thine.
With Care preserve what dying Friends bestow,
Lest thou the World's just Censure undergo.
If Wealth abounds, when Life draws near its End,
Enjoy thy self and be a generous Friend.
Counsel, tho' from thy Servant, don't despise;
But true good Sense ev'n in the meanest prize.
Should Fortune reassume what she had lent,
Retrench Expences, but still live content.
Ne'er for the Sake of Portion take a Wife;
Nor keep a brawling Scold to plague thy Life.
Thy Life by other Mens Example steer,
And thence learn what to practice, what forbear.
Match to thy Strength thy Task, lest overprest,
And vainly strugling thou must yield at last.
Others Misdeeds labour not to conceal;
Lest thou by Silence seem t'approve the Ill.
[Page 17]
When Laws oppress, Aid from the Judge desire;
For laws some Mitigation oft require.
What thou from Justice suffers, calmly bear,
And on thy Guilt thy self be most severe.
Read much, and much of that when read reject;
For Poets Wonders more than Truth affect.
At Feasts in Talk be modest, lest thou gain
A Trifler's Name while studying t' entertain.
Regard not Woman's Passions, nor her Smiles
With Passion she ensnares, with Tears beguiles.
Enjoy thy Goods, but let no Waste be made:
Who wastes his own, will others Right invade.
Firmly resolv'd, Death's Summons scorn to fear,
Which if not lovely, ends at least all Care.
If thy Wife's virtuous, bear her Tongue, for sure
Thou may'st for her good Deeds some Words endure.
Equal Affection for both Parents bear;
Nor slight the one the other to revere.
[Page 18]


YOU who a Life secure from Ills would lead,
And Virtue's Paths by Vice untainted tread,
Firmly impress these Precepts on your Mind,
Here by your self you'll safe Direction find.
Riches contemn if thou true Bliss would find;
Who honour these, are Beggars in their Mind.
If by wise Nature's Rules thou bounds Desires,
Thou'lt easy live; 'tis little she requires.
For Ills that from thy own Imprudence came,
Thy own weak Folly not thy Fortune blame.
The Use of Money not the Metal prize;
Souls truly great will ever that despise.
To keep thy Body sound, spare not thy Wealth:
Riches are tasteless when not blest with Health.
If when at School the Master's Rod thou bore,
Bear with a Parent's Anger much the more.
In Things of real Use thy Time employ;
Vain Projects Time and Money both destroy.
[Page 19]
Sell not thy Favours through unkind Delays,
But Friends, the noblest Purchase, with them raise.
When thou suspects a Mischief, strait enquire;
Neglected Sparks ost raise destructive Fire.
When Venus through thy Blood enflames Desire,
Retrench thy Food; high Feeding fans the Fire.
Devouring Beasts Man justly dreads, yet know
That Man to Man is the most dreadful Foe.
If thou excells in Strength, direct it well;
So may thou in true Valour too excel.
In Straits a well-prov'd Friend's Assistance crave:
In Straits no Doctor like a Friend can save.
Why for thy Guilt should guiltless Victims bleed;
By others Death thou cann't from Death be freed.
When some true Bosom-Friend thou seeks to choose,
Let Wisdom and not Wealth direct thy Views.
Vile Avarice detest, enjoy thy Store:
The Miser midst his Heaps of Wealth is poor.
If thou a Fame unblemish'd would'st maintain,
Th' alluring Charms of Vice with Care refrain.
[Page 20]
In Youth mock not old Age; Youth swistly spends,
And double Childhood human Life attends.
Still learn some useful Thing, for small's the Cost,
Yet that may hold when all Things else are lost.
In Silence ponder well what others say:
Words ost the Speaker's inward Soul betray.
When thou hast gain'd a Science, practice still;
Practice in every Art improves the Skill.
With future Ills thy Soul ne'er terrify:
Who Life despises needs not fear to die.
Learn of the Learn'd, and others teach again,
That useful Knowledge thro' the World may reign.
Drink not beyond thy Strength; for from Excess
Disorders spring that the whole Frame distress.
What you've approv'd in publick, don't again
Condemn through Lightness; 'twill your Credit stair
In prosperous Times don't on their Stay presume:
In adverse, hope for better still to come,
Cease not to learn, Wisdom's by Care attain'd,
And Prudence from a long Experience gain'd.
[Page 21]
Sparingly praise thy Friend, lest to thy Shame
Some one rash Act his want of Worth proclaim.
To learn whate'er thou knows not, think no Shame;
Knowledge just Praise deserves, to want is Blame.
From Love and Wine both Strife and Pleasures spring;
Wisely chuse thou the Sweet, and shun the Sting.
Of silent Men with Looks demure beware;
The deepest Streams the smoothest Faces bear.
When tempted at thy Fortune to repine,
Consider those whole Lot's still worse than thine.
Know thy own Strength, and in due Limits keep;
The Shore is safe, but Danger's in the Deep.
Against the Just try not the Force of Laws,
For God's th' Avenger of the righteous Cause.
Let not the Loss of Wealth thy Soul distress,
But chearful Thanks for every Good express.
Hard is the Loss of what was held with Care,
Yet some for Friends we patiently should bear.
Don't on long Life presumptuously depend,
Death, like thy Shade, does every where attend.
[Page 22]
Think not Heav'n's Wrath with Blood of Calves t'ap­pease;
The Plow's their Task, Incence will better please.
When hurt by Power, yield gently to the Blow;
For those that hurt, again may Favour show.
For Sins on thy own Heart sharp Penance strain;
In healing Wounds Pain is the Cure of Pain.
If an old Friend at length a Foe should prove,
Tho' he be chang'd remember former Love.
By generous Returns thy self endear,
Lest thou th' hard Censure of ungrateful [...].
Be not suspicious, 'twill but give thee Pain;
Suspicion's of all Joy the deadly Bane.
Seize on Time's Forelock when it does present;
For when 'tis fled, in vain thou wilt repent.
When thou a Servant buys, tho' term'd thy Slave,
He's Man, and Men a humane Treatment crave.
Let not the Death of ill Men give thee Joy;
Who spotless live may truly happy die.
In Wedlock join'd, t'avoid a dangerous Snare,
Of Visits from pretending Friends beware.
[Page 23]
Tho' much thou knows, yet gain by Study more;
The Mind's ne'er burthen'd with th' enlightning Store.
If couch'd in two flat Lines each Precept lies,
Yet brief and strong the Sense; let this suffice.
[Sound pleases Fools, but Truth and Sense the Wise.]


PAge v. line 5. for have, read hath. Page vi. line 12. for Officipedi, read Officiperdi. Page 10. line 28. for Complaisance, read Complacence. Page 11. line 15. for they, read thy.

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