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Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 1.djvu/498

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THE CURSE OF MINERVA.

emotional as some of these phrases may be, they explain, if they do not justify, the sæva indignatio of Byron's satire.

It is almost, if not quite, unnecessary to state the facts on the other side. History regards Lord Elgin as a disinterested official, who at personal loss (at least thirty-five thousand pounds on his own showing), and in spite of opposition and disparagement, secured for his own country and the furtherance of art the perishable fragments of Phidian workmanship, which, but for his intervention, might have perished altogether. If they had eluded the clutches of Turkish mason and Greek dealer in antiquities—if, by some happy chance, they had escaped the ravages of war, the gradual but gradually increasing assaults of rain and frost would have already left their effacing scars on the "Elgin marbles." As it is, the progress of decay has been arrested, and all the world is the gainer. Byron was neither a prophet nor an archæologist, and time and knowledge have put him in the wrong. But in 1810 the gaps in the entablature of the Parthenon were new, the Phidian marbles were huddled in a "damp dirty penthouse" in Park Lane (see Life of Haydon, i. 84), and the logic of events had not justified a sad necessity.