Douglas was the third son of the fifth earl of Angus. He matriculated at St. Andrews University in 1489 and took a master's degree in 1494. Upon reaching his majority in 1496, he took holy orders, which was not uncommon for younger sons of nobility. Douglas moved up the ecclesiastical ladder from the deanery of Dunkeld to the provost of St. Giles (1503) and then to the bishopric of Dunkeld (1516). He died of the plague in September 1522 at the London home of Cardinal Wolsey while attempting to win support for the archbishopric of Edinburgh.
Along with several of his fellow Middle Scots poets, Douglas is often considered one of the Scottish Chau-CERIANS. However, of this group, Douglas was the first to refer to his language not as "Inglis" but as "Scottis." He sought to legitimize the VERNACULAR—in this case the Scottish vernacular—as a worthy vehicle for poetry.
Among other pieces, Douglas wrote a dream vision, Palice of Honour, (ca. 1501-13) and may be the author of the minor poem King Hart (ca. 1500) as well. However, he is best known for his Eneados, which he completed on July 22, 1513. It was the first and only complete translation of Virgil's Aeneid until John Dryden's in 1700. Because he added the glosses of Ser-vius Maurus Honoratus, the fourth-century grammarian, and Jodocus Badius Ascensius, the printer and scholar, as well as his own ideas about virgil's text, this work is an important contribution to the translation tradition.
Douglas's powerful use of his own culture, homeland, and literary dialect helped to establish and preserve Scotland's linguistic freedom from the political power of England and the cultural force of the English language.
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