LAOCOON. • [VIRGIL, IENEID IL, 199.] HERE a new horror meets our hapless eyes, More huge, more horrible,—troubling sore our hearts, That looked not for it. Neptune's lot-drawn priest, Laocoon, was slaying in sacrifice Beside the ritual altars a great bull ; When lo ! a pair across the glassy sea From Tenedos came gliding—while I tell, Horror still holds me —serpents, with huge coils, Breasting the deep sea shorewards, side by side.
Their breasts rose upright in mid-wave; their crests, Blood-red, o'ertopped the waters ; on the sea Sweeps all their hinder part, and trails its length In curves enormous ; hissing flies the foam.
And now they touched the green fields ; we could see
Stain as of blood and fire in their fierce eyes— The quick tongue playing round the hissing jaws—
And at the sight flew scattering, pale as death.
They swerve not from the straight road to their aim,— Laocoon ; and first the lesser prey, His sons, each serpent seizes, close entwined, And fastening on the poor limbs, make their meal.
Himself next, running all in arms to help, They seize, and wreathe in their gigantic coils; Twice round the waist they've clasped him, see ! and twice Clung round his neck in scaled embrace ; and now O'ertop him, head and neck high-lifted. He, The while his hands wrench at the knotted coils To part them—his priest's fillets dripping fast Blood and black venom—to Heaven still cries aloud, Hideous to hear; such roaring as a bull Raises when, wounded only, it has rushed Otf from the altar, dashing from its neck The ill-aimed axe. But gliding serpentine, The pair make off, right for the topmost shrine, Fastness of fierce Tritonia, and there hide Beneath the goddess' feet and full-orbed shield. F. W. B.