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Louisa Dawes, joint winner
(Matthew Spender's 14-and-Under prize)
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Aeneid II
(lines 199–240)


Hic aliud maius miseris multoque tremendum
obicitur magis atque improvida pectora turbat.
Laoccon, ductus Neptuno sorte sacerdos,
sollemnis taurum ingentem mactabat ad aras.
ecce autem gemini a Tenedo tranquilla per alta
(horresco referens) immensis orbibus angues
incumbunt pelago pariterque ad litora tendunt;
pectora quorum inter fluctus arrecta iubaeque
sanguineae superant undas, pars cetera pontum
pone legit sinuatque immensa volumine terga.
fit sonitus spumante salo; iamque arva tenebant
ardentisque oculos suffecti sanguine et igni
sibila lambebant linguis vibrantibus ora.
diffugimus visu exsangues. illi agmine certo
Laocoonta petunt; et primum parva duorum
corpora natorum serpens amplexus uterque
implicat et miseros morsu depascitur artus;
post ipsum auxilio subeuntem ac tela ferentem
corripiunt spirisque ligant ingentibus; et iam
bis medium amplexi, bis collo squamea circum
terga dati superant capite et cervicibus altis.
ille simul manibus tendit divellere nodos
perfusus sanie vittas atroque ueneno,
clamores simul horrendos ad sidera tollit:
qualis mugitus, fugit cum saucius aram
taurus et incertam excussit cervice securim.
at gemini lapsu delubra ad summa dracones
effugiunt saeuaeque petunt Tritonidis arcem,
sub pedibusque deae clipeique sub orbe teguntur.


Virgil
Aeneid II
(lines 199–240)


Now we witnessed a greater omen
that shook us to our very hearts which, until then, had been innocent.
Laocoon, having been chosen as priest of Neptune,
was at the altar, sacrificing a huge bull.
But look at the sea (the thought still sends a shiver up my spine)!
Thick, dark coils are twisting up from the depths;
twin creatures, advancing towards the shore
on the black waves, their bloody crests rising
high over the turbulent water; their bodies
beating the sea to a swirling mass, their backs
arching into immense folds.
The sea crashed as the snakes wrenched themselves from the water
onto land, their eyes flashing with blood, flickering with fire
and their quivering tongues flitting about their mouths.
We scattered at the sight. They made straight for Laocoon;
first taking the little bodies of his sons
into their coils and snatching away their limbs in one bite;
then they turn on him as he draws weapons
and bind him in their huge loops: and now,
their bodies knotted around his middle twice,
their scales pressed against his neck, their great heads tower
above him – and he claws at the coils,
his sacred circlets steeped in black poison
as he screams to the heavens
like a wounded bull which fled sacrifice
and shook the axe from its neck.
But the twin snakes shrink away from the shrine
and head for Tritonia's citadel
where they vanish between the goddess' stony feet and shield.


Translated from the Latin by Louisa Dawes
  [Commentary on the poem by the translator]   



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