Page images
PDF
EPUB

NOTES TO CANTO II.

Note 1, page 57, stanza 1.

---despite of war and wasting fire, etc. Part of the Acropolis was destroyed by the explosion of a magazine during the Venetian siege.

Note 2, page 57, stanza 1.
But worse than steel and flame, and ages slow,
Is the dread sceptre and dominion dire

Of men who never felt the sacred glow

That thoughts of thee and thine on polish'd breasts bestow. We can all feel, or imagine, the regret with which the ruins of cities once the capitals of empires, are beheld; the reflections suggested by such objects are too trite to require recapitulation. But never did the littleness of man, and the vanity of his very best virtues of patriotism to exalt, and of valour to defend his country, appear more conspicuous than in the record of what Athens was, and the certainty of what she now is. This theatre of contention between mighty factions, of the struggles of orators, the exaltation and deposition of tyrants, the triumph and punishment of generals, is now become a scene of petty intrigue and perpetual disturbance, between the bickering agents of certain British nobility and gentry. « The wild foxes, the owls and serpents in the ruins of Babylon,» were surely less degrading than such inhabitants. The Turks have the plea of conquest for their tyranny, and the Greeks have only suffered the fortune of war, incidental to the bravest; but how are the mighty fallen, when two painters contest the privilege of plundering the Parthenon, and triumph in turn, according to the tenor of each succeeding firman! Sylla could but punish, Philip subdue, and Xerxes burn Athens; but it remained for the paltry antiquarian, and his despicable agents, to render her contemptible as himself and his pursuits.

The Parthenon, before its destruction in part, by fire, during the Venetian siege, had been a temple, a church, and a mosque. In each point of view it is an object of regard : it changed its worshippers ; but still it was a place of worship thrice sacred to devotion : its violation is a triple sacrilege. But

« Man, vain man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
Plays such fantastic tricks before luigh heaven
As make the angels weep. »

Note 3, page 58, stanza v.

Far on the solitary shore he sleeps : etc. It was not always the custom of the Greeks to burn their dead; the greater Ajax in particular was interred entire. Almost all the chiefs became gods after their decease, and he was indeed neglected, who had not annual games near his tomb, or festivals in honour of his memory by his countrymen, as Achilles, Brasidas, etc. and at last even Antinous, whose death was as heroic as his life was infamous.

Note 4, page 60, stanza x.

Here, son of Saturn! was thy fav’rite throne: etc. The temple of Jupiter Olympius, of which sixteen columns entirely of marble yet survive: originally there were one hundred and fifty. These columns, however, are by many supposed to have belonged to the Pantheon.

Note 5, page 6o, stanza xi.

And bear these altars o'er the long-reluctant brine. The ship was wrecked in the Archipelago.

Note 6, page 61, stanza xır. To rive what Goth, and Turk, and time hath spared : etc. At this moment (January 3, 1809), besides what has been already deposited in London, an Hydriot vessel is in the Piræus to receive every portable relic. Thus, as I heard a young Greek observe in common with many of his countrymen—for, lost as they are, they yet feel on this occasion-thus may Lord Elgin boast of having ruined Athens. An Italian painter of the first eminence, named Lusieri, is the agent of devastation; and, like the Greek finder of Verres in Sicily, who followed the same profession, he has proved the able instrument of plunder. Between this artist and the French Consul Fauvel, who wishes to rescue the remains for his own government, there is now a violent dispute concerning a car employed in their conveyance, the wheel of which-I wish they were both broken upon it-has been locked up by the Consul, and Lusieri has laid his complaint before the Waywode. Lord Elgin has been extremely happy in his choice of Signor Lusieri. During a residence of ten years in Athens, he never had the curiosity to proceed as far as Sunium,' till he accom

· Now Cape Colonna. In all Attioa, if we except Athens itself and Marathon, there is no scene more interesting than Cape Colonna. To the antiquary and artist, sixteen columns are an inexhaustible source of observation and design; to the philosopher, the supposed scene of some of Plato's conversations will not be unwelcome; and the traveller will be struck with the beauty of the prospect over « Isles that crown the Ægean deep:» but for an Englishman, Colonna has yet an additional interest, as the actual spot of Falconer's Shipwreck. Pallas and Plato are forgotten, in the recollection of Falconer and Campbell :

« Here in the dead of night hy Lonna' steep,
The scaman's cry was heard along the deep.»

This temple of Minerva may be seen at sea from a great distance. In two journeys which I made, and one voyage to Cape Colonna, the view from either side, by land, was less striking than the approach from the isles. In our second land excursion, we had a narrow escape from a party of Mainotes, concealed in the caverns beneath. We were told afterwards, by one of their prisoners subsequently ransomed, that they were deterred from attacking us by the appearance of my two Albanians: conjecturing very sagaciously, but falsely, that we had a complete guard of these Arnaouts at hand, they remained stationary,

panied us in our second excursion. However, his works, as far as they go, are most beautiful; but they are almost all unfinished. While he and his patrons confine themselves to tasting medals, appreciating cameos, sketching columns, and cheapening gems, their little absurdities are as harmless as insect or fox-hunting, maiden-speechifying, barouche-driving, or any such pastime : but when they carry away three or fonr shiploads of the most valuable and massy relics that time and barbarism have left to the most injured and most celebrated of cities; when they destroy, in a vain attempt to tear down, those works which have been the admiration of ages, I know no motive which can excuse, no name which can designate, the perpetrators of this dastardly devastation. It was not the least of the crimes laid to the charge of Verres, that he had plundered Sicily, in the manner since imitated at Athens. The most unblushing impudence could hardly go farther than to affix the name of its plunderer to the walls of the Acropolis; while the wanton and useless defacement of the whole range of the basso-relievos, in one compartment of the temple, will never permit that name to be pronounced by an observer without execration.

On this occasion I speak impartially: I am not a collector or admirer of collections, consequently no rival; but I have some early prepossession in favour of Greece, and do not think the honour of England advanced by plunder, whether of India or Attica.

Another noble Lord has done better, because he has done less : but some others, more or less noble, yet « all honourable men,» have done best, because, after a deal of excavation and execration, bribery to the Waywode, mining and countermining, they have done

and thus saved our party, which was too small to have opposed any effectual resistance.

Colonna is no less a resort of painters than of pirates; there

« The bireling artist plants his paltry desk,
And makes degraded nature picturesque.»

(Sce Hodgson's Lady Jane Gray, etc.)

But there nature, with the aid of arı, has done that for herself. I was fortunate enough to engage a very superior German artist; and hope to renew my acquaintance with this and many other Levantine scenes, by the arrival of his performances.

nothing at all. We had such ink-shed, and wine-shed, which almost ended in bloodshed! Lord E.’s « prign-see Jonathan Wylde for the definition of « priggism,»— quarrelled with another, Gropius' by name (a very good name too for his business), and muttered something about satisfaction, in a verbal answer to a note of the poor Prussian : this was stated at table to Gropius, who laughed, but could eat no «inner afterwards. The rivals were not reconciled when I left Greece. I have reason to remember their squabble, for they wanted to make me their arbitrator.

Note 7, page 61, stanza xii.
Her sons too weak the sacred shrine to guard,

Yet felt some portion of their mother's pains, etc. I cannot resist availing myself of the permission of my friend Dr Clarke, whose name requires no comment with the public, but whose sanction will add tenfold weight to my testimony, to insert the following extract from a very obliging letter of his to me, as a note to the above lines.

- When the last of the Metopes was taken from the Parthenon, and, in moving of it, great part of the superstructure with one of the triglyphs was thrown down by the workmen whom Lord Elgin employed, the Disdar, who beheld the mischief done to the building, took his pipe from his mouth, dropped a tear, and, in a supplicating tone of voice, said to Lusieri; Téños !-I was present,»

The Disdar alluded to was the father of the present Disdar.

"This Signor Gropius was employed by a noble lord for the sole purpose of sketching, in which he excels; but I am sorry to say, that he has, through the abused sanction of that most respectable name, been treading at humble distance in the steps of Signor Lusieri.--A shipful of his trophies was detained, and I believe confiscated at Constantinople in 1810.-I am most happy to be now enabled to stale, that « this was not in his bond;» that he was employed solely as a painter, and that his noble patron disavows all connexion with him, except as an artist. If the error in the first and second edition of this poem has given the noble lord a moment's pain, I am very sorry for it; Signor Gropius has assumed for years the name of his agent; and though I cannot much condemn myself for sharing in the mistake of so many, I am happy in being one of the first to be undeceived. Indeed, I have as much pleasure in contradicting ibis as I felt regrei in stating it.

VOL. I.

« PreviousContinue »