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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 1.djvu/497

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THE CURSE OF MINERVA.

deportation of friezes and statues come to an end. The firman which Dr. Hunt, the chaplain to the embassy, had obtained in 1801, which empowered Elgin and his agents to take away qualche pezzi di pietra, still ran, and Don Tita Lusieri, the Italian artist, who remained in Elgin's service, was still, like the canes venatici (Americané, "smell-dogs") employed by Verres in Sicily (see Childe Harold canto ii. st. 12, note), finding fresh relics, and still bewailing to sympathetic travellers the hard fate which compelled him to despoil the temples malgré lui. The feelings of the inhabitants themselves were not much in question, but their opinions were quoted for and against the removal of the marbles. Elgin's secretary and prime agent, W. R. Hamilton, testifies, from personal knowledge, that, "so far from exciting any unpleasant sensations, the people seemed to feel it as the means of bringing foreigners into the country and of having money spent there" (Memoir on the Earl of Elgin's Pursuits in Greece, 1811). On the other hand, the traveller, Edward Daniel Clarke, with whom Byron corresponded (see Childe Harold, canto ii. st. 12, note), speaks of the attachment of the Turks to the Parthenon, and their religious veneration for the building as a mosque, and tells a pathetic story of the grief of the Disdar when "a metope was lowered, and the adjacent masonry scattered its white fragments with thundering noise among the ruins" (Travels in Various Countries, part ii. sect. ii. p. 483).

Other travellers of less authority than Clarke—Dodwell, for instance, who visited the Parthenon before it had been dismantled, and, afterwards, was present at the removal of metopes; and Hughes, who came after Byron (autumn, 1813)—make use of such phrases as "shattered desolation," "wanton devastation and avidity of plunder." Even Michaelis, the great archæologist, who denounces The Curse of Minerva as a "libellous poem," and affirms "that only blind passion could doubt that Lord Elgin's act was an act of preservation," admits that "the removal of several metopes and of the statue from the Erechtheion had severely injured the surrounding architecture" (Ancient Marbles in Great Britain, by A. Michaelis, translated by C. A. M. Fennell, 1882, p. 135). Highly coloured and