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[Tais 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.]
CURSE OF MINERVA.
Athens, Capuchin Convent, March 17. 1811.
Not, as in northern climes, obscurely bright,
The god of gladness sheds his parting smile;
[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third canto of the Corsair, the author having, at that time, abandoned all notion of publishing the piece of which they originally made part.]
Till, darkly shaded from the land and deep,
On such an eve his palest beam he cast
And dark the mountain's once delightful dyes;
But, lo! from high Hymettus to the plain
1 Socrates drank the hemlock a short time before sunset (the hour of execution), notwithstanding the entreaties of his disciples to wait till the sun went down.
2 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 cypress saddening by the sacred mosque,
Again the Egean, heard no more afar,
As thus, within the wall of Pallas' fane, I mark'd the beauties of the land and main,
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.
2 [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 fabric, 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 Ionic and Corinthian ruins of Athens, much less upon the specimens of the more modern species of architecture to be seen in Italy. - HOBHOUSE.]