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A Note on Gavin Douglas's Translation of Livy: the 'mylky flud of eloquens'.

In 1533, the poet, translator, and Archdeacon of Moray, John Bellenden (c. 5495-5545x8) completed his translation of Livy's history of Rome, the Ab Urbe Condita. (1) Bellenden's translation, which encompassed the first five books of the history, had been commissioned by James V (1512-1542) and drew on the most recent advances in humanist scholarship. (2) Over fifteen years before, however, Gavin Douglas (c. 1476-1522) had reworked the opening lines of Livy's Ab Urbe Condita when preparing his celebrated translation of Vergil's Aeneid. Douglas's succinct translation appears in the commentary which accompanies the first book of the Eneados as preserved in the manuscript held at Trinity College, Cambridge (MS O.3.12) to which Coldwell assigns 'a date not later than 1515.' (3) Here Douglas appeals to 'the mast nobill and famus historian and mylky flud of eloquens, gret Tytus Lyuius' in order to salvage the reputation of Antenor and Aeneas from a tradition which held that they had betrayed Troy to save themselves. This account had been popularised in the Middle Ages by Guido delle Colonne's (c.1210--c.1290) Historia Destructionis Troiae (1287), which was itself a prose reworking of Benoit de Saint-Maure's verse romance, the Roman de Troie (c. '165). (4) Here Guido had devoted an entire chapter to 'the betrayal of Troy by Aeneas and Antenor'. (5) Livy, as Douglas was aware, offered an alternative account.

The texts quoted below include (i.) the Latin as found in Jodocus Badius Ascensius's 1510 edition of Livy (with a modern English translation), (ii.) Douglas's translation of these lines, and (iii.) Bellenden's treatment of the same:

i. I am primum omnium satis constat Troia capta in caeteros saeuitum esse troianos: duobus Aenea Antenoreque & vetusti lure hospitii: & quia pacis reddendxque Helenae semper auctores fuerunt: omne ius belli achiuos abstinuisse. (6)

(First of all, it is generally understood that, after Troy had been taken, the Achaeans vented their anger on the other Trojans, with the exception of Aeneas and Antenor, whom the Achaeans spared every law of warfare, because of the ancient law of hospitality, and because they had always been advocates of peace and of returning Helen.)

ii. It is weill wyt that, Troy be and takin, in all the other is Troianys crudelite was exersit, excepp and twa, Anthenor and Eneas, to whom the Grekis did na harm, bot abstenyt fra all power of batall as twichyng thaim, becau[beta] of the rayson of hospitalitie, for thai had beyn ther ald hostis, and all tymys thai war solistaris and warkkaris to render Helen and to procur paice. (7)

iii. In the begynnyng it is paten yneuch, quhen troy was takin, pe grekis slew mony of pe ciete3anis Pareof. Two princes war in Pis ciete, Antenor and Eneas, quham pe grekis be richt of ancient lugeing nocht invadit with batall, for thir princes war compositouris of pece, and lauborit to restore Helene agane to grekis; and for thir causis war sufferit to departe with Pare body and gudis sad. (8)

Both translators embellish the original, with Bellenden introducing the explanatory phrases Two princes war in Pis ciete' and 'for thir causis, while Douglas expands Livy's 'vetusti lure hospitii' with 'becau[beta] of the rayson of hospitalitie, for thai had beyn ther ald hostis; preserving something of Livy's hospitium with 'hospitalitie: Douglas reproduces Livy's 'auctores' with a doublet, 'solistaris and warkkaris', while Bellenden gives the perhaps smoother 'compositouris of pece. Having quoted from the AUC in his own translation, Douglas pits the authority of Livy and Vergil, two Augustan authors, against that of the medieval Guido: Now I beseik sou, curte[beta] redaris, considdir gif this be punctis of traison, or rather of honour, and wey the excellent awtorite of Virgill and Tytus Lyuius wyth 3er pauch and corruptit Guido. (9) The appeal to Livy thus forms part of Douglas's 'recurrent concern with truth and sentence', with revealing the significance both of individual lexis and the wider truth of Vergil's narrative as a whole. (10)

It was not only as authorities of Roman history, however, that Douglas set the poet and historian on a par. When Douglas praises Livy as the 'mylky flud of eloquens; he is harnessing St Jerome's description of the historian as 'flowing from the milky spring of eloquence' ('lacteo eloquentiae fonte manantem'), which was itself a reworking of Quintilian's praise of Livy's 'milky richness' (lactea ubertas'). (11) Douglas deliberately transfers this epithet to Vergil in the opening lines of the 'Prologus, where he praises the poet as the 'gem of engyne and flude of eloquens', later referring again to the poet's 'flude of eloquens.' (12) Douglas thus draws a parallel between Vergil and Livy in terms of their stylistic qualities, just as he draws attention to their narrative parallels in his commentary. This was not the last time that Livy's 'milky richness' would be harnessed in the context of Scottish humanism. In the dedicatory verse which precedes Hector Boece's (c. 1465-1536) Scotorum Historia (1526), Ascensius would describe Boece as bringing Livy's 'milky eloquence' to a Scottish readership: 'he has brought the glory of Paduan Livy and his milky eloquence to the Scots' ('historiae Liuique decus pataunini, / Lacteaque ad Scotos transtulit eloquia'). (13) For Douglas, however, this description served as another means of underlining the similarities between the historian and the poet.

It is perhaps unsurprising that Douglas should turn to the first book of Livy when glossing the first book of the Aeneid, concerned as both narratives are with an aetiological account of Rome's origins. As Thomas Rutledge notes, Livy's history begins 'with precisely the material with which the thirteen-book Eneados concludes', namely Aeneas's arrival in Italy and the founding of Lavinium. (14) In fact, Douglas had already played with the idea of Livy's Ab Urbe Condita as a continuation of Vergil's Aeneid in his Palice of Honour. Here he slips seamlessly from the account of Rome's legendary past offered by the poet to that of the historian:
Syn out of Troy I saw the fugityuys
Quhow that Eneas as Virgill weil descriuis,
Quhow he in Italic fynalie with huge pyne,
Arriuit at the strandis of Lauyne
And quhow he faucht well baith on land and seys,
And Turnus slew the kyng of Rutuleis.
Rome I saw beildit fyrst be Romulus,
And eik quhow lang (as wryttis Leuius)
The Romane kyngis abone the pepill rang,
And how the wickit proud Tarquinius
With wyfe and barnis be Brutus Iunius
Wer exilit Rome for thair insufferabil wrang
Bot al the proces for to schaw wer lang
Quhow chast Lucres the gudliest and best
Be Sextus Terquine wes cruelly opprest. (15)

Here the gap between stanzas is all that separates the final action of the Aeneid, namely the death of Turnus, and the events of the first book of Livy's Ab Urbe Condita: the founding of the city by Romulus, the 'insufferabil' rule of Tarquinius Superbus, the sexual assault of Lucretia, and the exile of the royal family. Over a decade before the completion of the Eneados, Douglas had already appealed to both the historian and the poet at once, presenting Livy as the natural complement to and continuation of Vergil.

There is a self-consciously revisionist quality to Douglas's appeal to Livy in the commentary accompanying the Eneados. In both the commentary and prologue, he is distinguishing between his own approach to classical literature and that of Guido delle Colonne and William Caxton (1415X24-1491). Just as Douglas distances himself from Caxton's style of adaptation--he devotes no fewer than Iao lines of the prologue to an attack on Caxton's Eneydos and its avoidance of Vergil's Latin--so too he distances himself from the product of Caxton's press. The first English book to be printed by Caxton was, after all, an English version of Guido's Historia, published in 1473 as The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, translated via a French intermediary. Douglas's appeal to Livy can thus be seen as an extension of his humanism and wider urge to return ad fontes, whether this involves translating Vergil (and Livy) directly from the Latin or appealing to the Roman historian to corroborate the poet's account. (16) Harnessing the authority of 'Pe prince of stork liuius' to support 'Maist reuerend Virgil, of Latyn poetis prynce, Douglas underlined both the stylistic and thematic similarities between the two, deliberately locating his own work within the classical, as opposed to the medieval, tradition. (17)


(1) For a recent study of Bellenden's translation and the intellectual context from which it emerged, see Thomas Rutledge, 'Reading and Writing History: John Bellenden's Livy; Premodern Scotland: Literature and Governance 1420-1587, ed. by Joanna Martin and Emily Wingfield (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), pp. 144-58.

(2) For the resources to which Bellenden turned to complete his translation, see John-Mark Philo, 'John Bellenden's Livy and the Tools of Translation', Scottish Literary Review, 9.1 (2017), PP. 19-39.

(3) Gavin Douglas, Virgil's Aeneid Translated into Scottish Verse, 4 vols., ed. by F. C. Coldwell (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1957), I, 97.

(4) Guido delle Colonne, Historia Destructionis Troiae: Translated with an Introduction and Notes by Mary Elizabeth Meek (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1974), p. xi.

(5) Chapter XVIIII, 'Incipit liber xxxviiiiius de proditione Troie per Eneam et Anthenorem; Historia Destructionis Troiae, ed. by Nathanial Edward (Massachusetts: The Medieval Academy of America, 1936), pp. 217-28.

(6) Livy, Titi Liuii Patauini Historici Clarissimi: Quae Extant Decades (Paris: Jean Petit and Ascensius, 1510), air.

(7) Douglas, Virgil's Aeneid, II, 35.

(8) John Bellenden, Livy's History of Rome, 2 vols, ed. by W. C. Craigie (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1901-03), I (1901) 12.

(9) Douglas, Virgil's Aeneid, II, 35.

(10) Nicola Royan, 'Gavin Douglas's Humanist Identity' (2016), 1-25 (7), accessed online via Nottingham ePrints,

(11) St Jerome, 'Epistola LIII ad Paulinum, Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Tomus XXII, ed. by J.-P. Migne (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1864), column 541; Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 10.1.32.

(12) Gavin Douglas, Virgil's Aeneid, II.11, ('prologue', 309-10).

(13) Hector Bocce, Scotorum Historia (Paris: Jodocus Badius Ascensius, 1527), aiiv.

(14) Thomas Rutledge, 'Gavin Douglas and John Bellenden: Poetic Relations and Political Affiliations', Langage Cleir Illumynate: Scottish Poetry from Barbour to Drummond, 1375-1630, ed. by Nicola Royan (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007), pp. 93-116 (93-94).

(15) Gavin Douglas, The Palice of Honour, in The Shorter Poems of Gavin Douglas, ed. by Priscilla J. Bawcutt (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1967), 1630-1665 (pp. 102.-04).

(16) For Douglas's humanism, see Priscilla Bawcutt, Gavin Douglas: A Critical Study (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1976), pp. 31-36; Royan (2016).

(17) Douglas, Aeneid, II.3 ('prologus; 3); Bellenden, I (1901), 2.

University of East Anglia

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Title Annotation:JOHN MARK PHILO
Author:Philo, John Mark
Publication:Scottish Literary Review
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 22, 2019
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