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Douglas, Gawin

Gawin Douglas (gä´wĬn, găv´Ĭn), 1474?–1522, Scottish poet and churchman; son of Archibald Douglas, 5th earl of Angus. He is considered one of the great medieval Scottish poets. Douglas was Bishop of Dunkeld. Jealousy held by Scottish nobles toward the Douglas family interrupted his ecclesiastical career, and from 1515 his life was torn by political quarrels. His poetry was largely composed prior to this, in the more peaceful period of his life. The Palace of Honor and King Hart (i.e., Heart; the latter is possibly not his) are allegories of considerable skill, but his best work is his translation of the Aeneid (complete 1513, published 1553). One of the first English translations made directly from the original, Douglas's version is remarkably accurate, and its medieval tone only enhances its charm. The greatest parts of the whole poem, however, are the original prologues to each of the books. Douglas is little read today because the Scottish dialect in which he wrote is extremely difficult to understand.

See selections from his work, ed. by D. F. C. Coldwell (1964).

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