Book II - The Death of Laocoon
Virgil’s Aeneis, translated into Scottish Verse, by the famous Gawin Douglas, Bishop of Dunkeld. A new edition…, Andrew Symson and Robert Freebairn, Edinburgh, 1610.
Book II, Pages 39-40 and 45-46, being a literal modern English translation from Middle Scots, with an attempt to preserve the rhyme & metre of Bishop Douglas.
When hither come before them all anon,
Following a great route, the priest Laocoon,
From that chiefly temple, running in full great haste,
On proclaimed, O wretched people, there is no time to waste,
How great a madness is this, that we now mean?
Our enemies away sailed give us wean,
Yet give our trust that any Greek gifts may be
Without deceit, falsity or subtlety,
Know us not better the acquainted Ulysses’ slight?
Otherwise in this tree are Greeks closed full right,
Or this engine is built to our scathe,
To watch our walls and our buildings red bathe,
Or to confound and overwhelm our city,
There lurks some falsity therein, trust me:
Let it in not, Trojans, I pray you in this hour,
However it be, I dread the Greeks are sour,
And they that send this gift always I fear.
Thus saying, with all his strength a great spear
At the side of that monstrous beast threw he,
And in the hinges of the throwing maim of tree,
Festering in lance, that trembling came to shake,
The braid belly shuddered, and with the stake,
The rounded cavern sounded and made a din
And had his wit been other than as was then,
Or had the fates of the god of war not been contrary,
Had he assayed any longer part of terry.
Instead hid maleficent Greeks covered to have rent out.
Then should thou Troy be standing is but doubt,
And the proud palace of Priam the King
Should have remained still for bells to ring.
Be thus he wills and slights everyone,
Of false constructs does mendacious Sinon;
The matter is believed with all Troy’s ears,
And taken are by deceit and crocodile tears,
Those people whom the Son of Tedus,
Nor fierce Achilles called Larisseus,
Nor Greece ten years in battle might overcome,
Nor do the thousand ships all and some.
Woe betide that there is a far greater wounder,
And more dreadful to caution be thus to hinder,
Which of Trojans troubled many unwarned breast.
As Laocoon the priest for Neptune best,
And chosen by lot into that role official,
A great bull offered in time sacrificial,
Solemnly before the holy altar,
Through the still sea from Tenedos afar,
Lo, two great coiled snakes with much turning
First throw the flood towards the land in yearning.
(My spirit abhors this matter to declare)
Above the water their necks stand aware,
With bloody crests outwith the walls gigantic,
The remnant swam always under the flat pelagic
With grisly bodies linked many fold,
Thereshalt flame flourish from the rush they hold,
Into the ground they glided with glowing evening,
Stuffed full of venom, fire and foul teething,
With tongues flickering in their mouths red,
They like the twin killing stings in their head.
We fled away all bloodless for fear.
But with a braid to Laocoon to tear
They start attacking, and his two sons sing
First the other serpent latched on like a ring,
And with their cruel bite, and sting they fell,
Of tender limbs took many a sorry morsel;
Next they the priest invaded both to entwine,
Whence with his weapons did his body pine
His children for to help and rescue.
Both they about him looped in knots through,
And twice circled his middle round about,
And twice folded their scaly skin but doubt,
About his crown, both neck and head they scrag.