Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
By Ennius (239–169 B.C.)
          Most of the longer passages preserved from the ‘Annals’ have already been cited. A few more of these tantalizing fragments may aid in giving the general impression of manly vigor, martial courage, and patriotism which evidently characterized the entire chronicle.

Book I

Dust to Dust

                        The earth,
That gave his body, takes it to herself,
And makes no instant of delay thereby.
The Poet’s Boast

Throughout the widespread nations shall my deeds
And poems be renowned.        5
Ascanius’s Prayer

O venerable Venus, unto thee,
My father’s mother, from the sky, I pray,
Look on me for a moment favoringly.
… Thee, father Tiber, with thy holy stream.
Rivals in Augury

    So Romulus and Remus, augurs both,
With anxious care and equal eagerness
Thro’ auspices and augury alike
Strive for the crown. Here Remus gives himself
To observing birds, and craves their favoring signs.
There,—on the Aventine,—fair Romulus        15
Questioning watches the high-flying tribes.
If Rome or Rémora be the city’s name.
This is their strife.
                And all men ask, no less,
Which of the twain shall be their overlord.
They wait as,—when the consul is prepared        20
To give the signal,—at the race-course’ start
All stand, in eagerness, where presently
The pictured gates shall speed the chariots forth.
So stands the folk, and asks in anxious doubt
On which the boon of kingship is bestowed.        25
    Meantime the pallid nightly sun hath set,
And the white light of day shoots forth its rays.
Then from on high one glorious swift bird
Flew to the left. Next rose the golden sun,
When a full dozen holy shapes of birds        30
Dropt from the sky, and found fair resting-place.
    Then Romulus sees the nobler sign is his,
The throne and realm by augury assured.
Farewell to Romulus

A tender longing fills their hearts: at once
They cry: “O Romulus, Romulus divine,        35
How fair a guardian of the fatherland
The gods begat in thee! O father, sire,
O blood from gods derived, unto the shores
Of light ’tis thou hast led us on the way.”
Book VI

Grief in the Forest

Men stride among the forest-groves, and hew
With axes. Noble oak trees they lay low,
The ilex is cut down, the beech o’erthrown,
The lofty fir lies prostrate. Stately pines
They overturn. So all the wood resounds
With lamentations of the leafy trees.        45
Brief Fragments

  With all its mighty constellations now
The sky revolves.
Whom none with gold or iron could overcome.
The agony within his side is death’s
Most certain messenger.        50
    Burrus [i.e. Pyrrhus] his name, and sprang,
’Tis said, from the most lofty race of Jove.
    Dull is the race of Æacidæ;
Potent in war, more than in wisdom strong.
Across the plain the dusky column goes.        55
These men, who were unconquered heretofore,
I in the fray have overthrown, and am
Vanquished by them as well.
Book VII

Earlier Rivals

    Others have told the tale
In verses such as fauns or bards had sung        60
Of old, when none the Muses’ crags had scaled
Nor won as yet the mastery of style.
Dispraise of Foes

    The Carthaginians were wont
To sacrifice their children to the gods.

Manners in Wartime

                If war be once proclaimed,
Wisdom is put to flight, force works his will.
Scorned is the gentle orator, beloved
The savage soldier. Not with clever words
But curses they who differ meet and strive:
Nor is the hand laid on in legal form,        70
But by the sword doth each reclaim his own,
And proves his right of way by violence.
Book XIV

Honor Either Way

                Now is it a day
When loftiest fame offers herself to us,
Whether we live or perish.        75
Book XVI

A Roman Fighter

  From every side upon the tribune fall
The javelins in a shower. They pierce his targe.
Its brazen boss reëchoes to the shafts,
The helmet’s bronze resounds. Yet never one
Who strives may scathe his body with the steel.        80
Still he shakes off and breaks the billowy spears,
Sweating and spent with toil is all his frame,
No chance for breath the wingéd missiles leave.

    Hereafter ’twill be burdensome
To undertake in age the author’s toil.        85
… Here, as a valiant steed
That at the finish won the Olympic race
Full often, now forespent with age he rests.

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