Ennius the Press Secretary

Petrarch, Africa 9.10-31:

Ennius sat silently meditating on the deck, the constant witness to and companion in Scipio’s affairs. Scipio approached him and began in these pleasant words:

‘Will you never break your silence, o my sweet solace of my many labors? Speak, I beg you. For you can see my heart melting away from many cares. You’re accustomed to ease them with your pleasant speech. Just relax your face, loosen your expression, if highest Apollo gave you the talent which you excel in at your birth, if the crowd of the goddesses washed you as an infant submerged in the Castalian pool on sacred Helicon, led you to the high hills, and have you the pen, the voice, and the mind of a poet.’

Ennius raised his head at these words and spoke thus: ‘O young flower of Italy, certain pledge of divine offspring, why does it please you to be moved by my mouth, or why do you order me thus? Indeed, I was considering in my silent heart that no age will ever bring forth a greater work of outstanding virtue than the one which our happy age sees; no one will ever move anything great under his mind for whom an honest name does not sound among his great hopes, who will not, coming to the point, wish to recall the deeds of Scipio, who would not wish to see your face as a gift. The greater fame of the grave will remain for you after the grave, for Spite plucks away at mortal achievements. But Death consumes Envy and wards it off from the funeral busts. Your glory had already conquered this pest, and now it safely flees the ground, the diseases and malignant habits of people, through the lofty breezes, and bore itself as the equal to the gods.”

Petrarch - Wikipedia

Puppe ducis media tacitus meditansque sedebat

Ennius, assiduus rerum testisque comesque;

Scipio quem tandem aggreditur verbisque benignis

Excitat incipiens: “Nunquamne silentia rumpes,

O michi multorum solamen dulce laborum?

Fare, precor; nam perpetuis tabentia curis

Pectora nostra vides. Placido sermone levare

Illa soles; faciesque modo, tantum ora resolve,

Si tibi nascenti, quo polles, summus Apollo

Ingenium celeste dedit, si turba dearum

Castalio infantem demersum gurgite lavit

Ex Elicone sacro, collesque eduxit in altos,

Et calamum et vocem tribuit mentemque poete.”

Ennius auditis caput extulit atque ita fatur:

“O flos Italie, iuvenis, stirpisque deorum

Certa fides, quid nunc nostro placet ore moveri,

Quidve iubes? Equidem tacito modo pectore mecum

Volvebam quod nulla ferent iam secula maius

Eximie virtutis opus, quam nostra quod etas

Leta videt, nullusque unquam sub mente movebit

Grande aliquid, cui non, magnas spes inter, honestum

Nomen in ore sonet, qui non venturus ad actum

Scipiade meminisse velit, pro munere vultus

Non cupiat vidisse tuos. Maiorque sepulcri

Post cineres te fama manet. Mortalia Livor

Carpit enim; at Mors Invidiam consumit et arcet

Ac procul a bustis abigit. Tua gloria pridem

Vicerat hanc pestem, iamque altas tuta per auras

Fugit humum morbosque hominum moresque malignos,

Seque parem tulit alma deis.

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