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The Curse of Minerva.'
"Pallas te hoc vulnere, Pallas Immolat, et pœnam scelerato ex sanguine sumit.' Eneid. lib. xii.
'Athens, Capuchin Convent, March 17. 1811. SLOW sinks, more lovely ere his race be run, 2 Along Morea's hills the setting sun;
Not, as in northern climes, obscurely bright,
O'er the hush'd deep the yellow beam he throws,
On such an eve his palest beam he cast When, Athens! here thy wisest look'd his last. How watch'd thy better sons his farewell ray, That closed their murder'd sage's 3 latest day! Not yet not yet-Sol pauses on the hill, The precious hour of parting lingers still; But sad his light to agonising eyes, And dark the mountain's once delightful dyes; Gloom o'er the lovely land he seem'd to pour, The land where Phœbus never frown'd before; But ere he sunk below Citharon's head, The cup of woe was quaff'd—the spirit fled; The soul of him that scorn'd to fear or fly, Who lived and died as none can live or die.
But, lo! from high Hymettus to the plain The queen of night asserts her silent reign; 4
1 [This fierce philippic on Lord Elgin, whose collection of Athenian marbles was ultimately purchased for the nation, in 1816, at the cost of thirty-five thousand pounds, was written at Athens, in March, 1811, and prepared for publication along with the "Hints from Horace;" but, like that satire, suppressed by Lord Byron, from motives which the reader will easily understand. It was first given to the world in 1828. Few can wonder that Lord Byron's feelings should have been powerfully excited by the spectacle of the despoiled Parthenon: but it is only due to Lord Elgin to keep in mind, that, had those precious marbles remained, they must, in all likelihood, have perished for ever amidst the miserable scenes of violence which Athens has since witnessed; and that their presence in England has already, by universal admission, been of the most essential advantage to the fine arts of our own country. The political allusions in this poem are not such as require much explanation. It contains many lines, which, it is hoped, the author, on mature reflection, disapproved of but is too vigorous a specimen of his iambics to be omitted in any collective edition of his works.]
2 [The splendid lines with which this satire opens, down to "As thus, within the walls of Pallas' fane," first appeared at the commencement of the third canto of the Corsair, the author having, at that time, abandoned all notion of publishing the piece of which they originally made part.]
3 Socrates drank the heinlock a short time before sunset (the hour of execution), notwithstanding the entreaties of his disciples to wait till the sun went down.
No murky vapour, herald of the storm,
The groves of olive scatter'd dark and wide,
Again the Ægean, heard no more afar, Lulls his chafed breast from elemental war; Again his waves in milder tints unfold Their long expanse of sapphire and of gold, Mix'd with the shades of many a distant isle, That frown, where gentler ocean deigns to smile.
As thus, within the walls of Pallas' fane,
I mark'd the beauties of the land and main,
Hours roll'd along, and Dian's orb on high Had gain'd the centre of her softest sky; And yet unwearied still my footsteps trod O'er the vain shrine of many a vanish'd god : But chiefly, Pallas! thine; when Hecate's glare, Check'd by thy columns, fell more sadly fair
4 The twilight in Greece is much shorter than in our own country; the days in winter are longer, but in summer of less duration.
The kiosk is a Turkish summer-house; the palm is without the present walls of Athens, not far from the temple of Theseus, between which and the tree the wall intervenes. Cephisus' stream is indeed scanty, and Ilissus has no stream at all.
6 [During our residence of ten weeks at Athens, there was not, I believe, a day of which we did not devote a part to the contemplation of the noble monuments of Grecian genius, that have outlived the ravages of time, and the outrage of barbarous and antiquarian despoilers. The Temple of Theseus, which was within five minutes' walk of our lodgings, is the most perfect ancient edifice in the world. In this fat.ric, the most enduring stability, and a simplicity of design peculiarly striking, are united with the highest elegance and accuracy of workmanship; the characteristic of the Doric style, whose chaste beauty is not. in the opinion of the first artists, to be equalled by the graces of any of the other orders. A gentleman of Athens, of great taste and skill, assured us that, after a continued contemplation of this temple, and the remains of the Parthenon, he could never again look with his accustomed satisfaction upon the lonic and Corinthian ruins of Athens, much less upon the specimens of the more modern species of architecture to be seen in Italy. - HOBHOUSE.]
O'er the chill marble, where the startling tread
Yes, 't was Minerva's self; but, ah! how changed Since o'er the Dardan field in arms she ranged! Not such as erst, by her divine command, Her form appear'd from Phidias' plastic hand: Gone were the terrors of her awful brow, Her idle ægis bore no Gorgon now; Her helm was dinted, and the broken lance Seem'd weak and shaftless e'en to mortal glance; The olive branch, which still she deign'd to clasp, Shrunk from her touch, and wither'd in her grasp; And, ah! though still the brightest of the sky, Celestial tears bedimm'd her large blue eye; Round the rent casque her owlet circled slow, And mourn'd his mistress with a shriek of woe!
"Mortal!"—'t was thus she spake" that blush of shame
Proclaims thee Briton, once a noble name;
'Scaped from the ravage of the Turk and Goth, 1
Recount the relics torn that yet remain :
These Cecrops placed, this Pericles adorn'd,3
Next prowls the wolf, the filthy jackal last :
[On the plaster wall, on the west side of the chapel, these words have been very deeply cut:
QUOD NON FECERUNT GOTI, HOC FECERUNT SCOTI.
The mortar wall, yet fresh when we saw it, supplying the place of the statue now in Lord Elgin's collection, serves as a comment on this text. This eulogy of the Goths alludes to an unfounded story of a Greek historian, who relates that Alaric, either terrified by two phantoms, one of Minerva herself, the other of Achilles, terrible as when he strode towards the wails of Troy to his friends, or struck with a reverential respect, had spared the treasures, ornaments, and people of the venerable city.- HOBHOUSE.]
2 [In the original MS.—
"Ah, Athens! scarce escaped from Turk and Goth: Hell sends a paltry Scotchman worse than both."]
Another name with his pollutes my shrine: Behold where Dian's beams disdain to shine! Some retribution still might Pallas claim, When Venus half avenged Minerva's shame." 6
She ceased awhile, and thus I dared reply,
And well I know within that bastard land 7
So may her few, the letter'd and the brave,
Still with his hireling artists let him prate,
To lounge and lucubrate, to prate and peep;
"So let him stand, through ages yet unborn, Fix'd statue on the pedestal of Scorn; Though not for him alone revenge shall wait, But fits thy country for her coming fate: Hers were the deeds that taught her lawless son To do what oft Britannia's self had done. Look to the Baltic-blazing from afar, Your old ally yet mourns perfidious war. 5 Not to such deeds did Pallas lend her aid, Or break the compact which herself had made; Far from such councils, from the faithless field She fled but left behind her Gorgon shield: A fatal gift, that turn'd your friends to stone, And left lost Albion hated and alone.
"Look to the East, where Ganges' swarthy race Shall shake your tyrant empire to its base;
[In 1816, thirty-five thousand pounds were voted by Parliament for the purchase of the Elgin marbles.]
2 Mr. West, on seeing the "Elgin Collection" (I suppose we shall hear of the "Abershaw " and " Jack Shephard "collection), declares himself " a mere tyro" in art.
3 Poor Cribb was sadly puzzled when the marbles were first exhibited at Elgin House: he asked if it was not "a stone shop?" He was right; it is a shop.
[That the Elgin marbles will contribute to the improvement of art in England, cannot be doubted. They must certainly open the eyes of the British artists, and prove that the true and only road to simplicity and beauty is the study of nature. But, had we a right to diminish the interest of Athens
Lo! there Rebellion rears her ghastly head,
"Look on your Spain !-she clasps the hand she hates,
But boldly clasps, and thrusts you from her gates.
Can spare a few to fight, and sometimes fly.
"Look last at home-ye love not to look there; On the grim smile of comfortless despair: Your city saddens : loud though Revel howls, Here Famine faints, and yonder Rapine prowls. See all alike of more or less bereft ;
No misers tremble when there's nothing left.
"Now fare ye well! enjoy your little hour; Go, grasp the shadow of your vanish'd power; Gloss o'er the failure of each fondest scheme; Your strength a name, your bloated wealth
Gone is that gold, the marvel of mankind,
for selfish motives, and prevent successive generations of other nations from seeing those admirable sculptures? The Temple of Minerva was spared as a beacon to the world, to direct it to the knowledge of purity of taste. What can we say to the disappointed traveller, who is now deprived of the rich gratification which would have compensated his travel and his toil? It will be little consolation to him to say, he may find the sculpture of the Parthenon in England. H. W. WILLIAMS.]
[The affair of Copenhagen.]
"Blest paper credit! last and best supply,
That lends Corruption lighter wings to fly !"-POPE.
7 The Deal and Dover traffickers in specie.
Vain is each voice where tones could once command;
E'en factions cease to charm a factious land:
"'Tis done, 'tis past, since Pallas warns in vain ;
And Gaul shall weep ere Albion wear her chains.
AN APOSTROPHIC HYMN. 2
TO THE PUBLISHER.
But know, a lesson you may yet be taught,
"Qualis in Eurota ripis, aut per juga Cynthi, Exercet Diana choros."
"Such on Eurotas' banks, or Cynthia's height,
I AM a country gentleman of a midland county. I might have been a parliament-man for a certain borough; having had the offer of as many votes as General T. at the general election in 1812. 3 But I was all for domestic happiness; as, fifteen years ago, on a visit to London, I married a middle-aged maid of honour. We lived happily at Hornem Hall till last season, when my wife and I were invited by the Countess of Waltzaway (a distant relation of my spouse) to pass the winter in town. Thinking no harm, and our girls being come to a marriageable (or, as they call it, marketable) age, and having
1 ["The beautiful but barren Hymettus, the whole coast of Attica, her hills and mountains, Pentelicus, Anchesmus, Philopappus, &c. &c. are in themselves poetical; and would be so if the name of Athens, of Athenians, and her very ruins, were swept from the earth. But, am I to be told that the nature "of Attica would be more poetical without the "art" of the Acropolis? of the Temple of Theseus? and of the still all Greek and glorious monuments of her exquisitely artificial genius? Ask the traveller what strikes him as most poetical, the Parthenon, or the rock on which it stands? The COLUMNS of Cape Colonna, or the Cape itself? The rocks at the foot of it, or the recollection that Falconer's ship was bulged upon them? There are a thousand rocks and capes far more picturesque than those of the Acropolis and Cape Sunium in themselves. But it is the "art," the columns, the temples, the wrecked vessel, which give them their antique and their modern poetry, and not the spots themselves. I op
besides a Chancery suit inveterately entailed upon the family estate, we came up in our old chariot,of which, by the bye, my wife grew so much ashamed in less than a week, that I was obliged to buy a second-hand barouche, of which I might mount the box, Mrs. H. says, if I could drive, but never see the inside that place being reserved for the Honourable Augustus Tiptoe, her partner-general and operaknight. Hearing great praises of Mrs. H.'s dancing (she was famous for birthnight minuets in the latter end of the last century), I unbooted, and went to a ball at the Countess's, expecting to see a country dance, or, at most, cotillions, reels, and all the old paces to the newest tunes. But, judge of my surprise, on arriving, to see poor dear Mrs. Hornem with her
posed, and will ever oppose, the robbery of ruins from Athens, to instruct the English in sculpture; but why did I do so? The ruins are as poetical in Piccadilly as they were in the Parthenon; but the Parthenon and its rock are less so without them. Such is the poetry of art."-Byron Letters, 1821.]
2 [This trifle was written at Cheltenham in the autumn of 1812, and published anonymously in the spring of the following year. It was not very well received at the time by the public; and the author was by no means anxious that it should be considered as his handiwork. "I hear," he says, in a letter to a friend, "that a certain malicious publication on waltzing is attributed to me. This report, I suppose, you will take care to contradict; as the author, I am sure, will not like that I should wear his cap and bells."]
State of the poll (last day), 5.
arms half round the loins of a huge hussar-looking gentleman I never set eyes on before; and his, to say truth, rather more than half round her waist, turning round, and round, and round, to a d-d see-saw up-and-down sort of tune, that reminded me of the "Black joke," only more "affetuoso," till it made me quite giddy with wondering they were not By-and-by they stopped a bit, and I thought they would sit or fall down:—but no; with Mrs. H.'s hand on his shoulder," quam familiariter" (as Terence said, when I was at school), they walked about a minute, and then at it again, like two cockchafers spitted on the same bodkin. I asked what all this meant, when, with a loud laugh, a child no older than our Wilhelmina (a name I never heard but in the Vicar of Wakefield, though her mother would call her after the Princess of Swappenbach,) said, "Lord! Mr. Hornem, can't you see they are valtzing?" or waltzing (I forget which); and then up she got, and her mother and sister, and away they went, and round-abouted it till supper time. Now, that I know what it is, I like it of all things, and so does Mrs. H. (though I have broken my shins, and four times overturned Mrs. Hornem's maid, in practising the preliminary steps in a morning). Indeed, so much do I like it, that having a turn for rhyme, tastily displayed in some election ballads, and songs in honour of all the victories (but till lately I❘ have had little practice in that way), I sat down, and with the aid of William Fitzgerald, Esq. 2, and a few hints from Dr. Busby 3, (whose recitations I attend, and am monstrous fond of Master Busby's manner of delivering his father's late successful "Drury Lane Address,") I composed the following hymn, wherewithal to make my sentiments known to the public; whom, nevertheless, I heartily despise, as well as the critics. I am, Sir, yours, &c. &c.
MUSE of the many-twinkling feet 4! whose charms Are now extended up from legs to arms;
1 My Latin is all forgotten, if a man can be said to have forgotten what he never remembered; but I bought my title-page motto of a Catholic priest for a three-shilling bank token, after much haggling for the even sixpence. I grudged the money to a papist, being all for the memory of Perceval and "No popery," and quite regretting the downfal of the pope, because we can't burn him any more.
2 [See antè, p. 421.]
[See "Rejected Addresses."]
"Glance their many-twinkling feet."-GRAY.
To rival Lord Wellesley's. or his nephew's, as the reader pleases the one gained a pretty wonan, whom he deserved, by fighting for; and the other has been fighting in the Peninsula many a long day, "by Shrewsbury clock," without gaining anything in that country but the title of "the Great Lord," and "the Lord;" which savours of profanation, having been hitherto applied only to that Being to whom "Te Deums" for carnage are the rankest blasphemy. It is to be presumed the general will one day return to his Sabine farm; there
"To tame the genius of the stubborn plain, Almost as quickly as he conquer'd Spain !"
The Lord Peterborough conquered continents in a summer; we do more-we contrive both to conquer and lose them in a shorter season. If the "great Lord's "Cincinnatian progress
Terpsichore !-too long misdeem'd a maid —
in agriculture be no speedier than the proportional average of time in Pope's couplet, it will, according to the farmers' proverb, be "ploughing with dogs."
By the bye-one of this illustrious person's new titles is forgotten it is, however, worth remembering-" Salvador del mundo!" credite, posteri! If this be the appellation annexed by the inhabitants of the Peninsula to the name of a man who has not yet saved them-query-are they worth saving, even in this world? for, according to the mildest modifications of any Christian creed, those three words make the odds much against them in the next." Saviour of the world," quotha!-it were to be wished that he, or any one else, could save a corner of it-his country. Yet this stupid misnomer, although it shows the near connection between superstition and impiety, so far has its use, that it proves there can be little to dread from those Catholics (inquisitorial Catholics too) who can confer such an appellation on a Protestant. I suppose next year he will be entitled the "Virgin Mary" if so. Lord George Gordon himself would have nothing to object to such liberal bastards of our Lady of Babylon.
[Among the addresses sent in to the Drury Lane Committce was one by Dr. Busby, which began by asking
"When energising objects men pursue, What are the prodigies they cannot do?"]