Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

well coloured, well fitted stone, was taken from the mosque, thereby making its appearance somewhat more ruinous. As to the Disdar Aga, who, at sight of the accident by which several masses of marble were brought down and dashed in pieces, actually took his pipe from his mouth, and letting fall a tear, said in a most emphatical tone of voice, Trdos! positively declaring that nothing should induce him to consent to any further dilapidation of the building,'-if there was in his grief any thing allied to a taste for the fine arts, Dr. C. should have made some inquiry into the history and education of an individual so unaccountably distinguished from the general character. The systematic antipathy of the true believers to pagan imagery, is notoriously so well sustained by a total insensibility to its utmost beauty as a manifestation of genius, that there can be no hazard in affirming that every Turk in Athens or in Greece, excepting the said Disdar, would have been gratified at the demolition of these displaced pieces of marble, considered as parts of the sculpture of the temple, though probably more gratified if the sculptures could have been destroyed, and the blocks left in their places on the walls.

Our author adverts repeatedly, and with great severity of censure, to Lord Elgin's proceedings. There is much force in his observations on some particulars of this affair; especially on the removal of the admired horse's head. He states that it was found impracticable to detach it without destroying the previously uninjured angle of the pediment; at whích very serious cost therefore to what may be called its native situation, it will display its fire and power in our national museum. But he justly observes also, that much of that expression of energy must be lost, when the head is beheld withdrawn from all the ad. vantages of the position, adapted, with the unrivalled artist's wonted skill, to give it effect in the view of a beholder from below.

• The head of this animal had been so judiciously placed by Phidias, that to a spectator below, it seemed to be rising from an abyss, foaming and struggling to burst from its confined situation, with a degree of energy suited to the greatness and dignity of its character. All the perspective of the sculpture (if such an ex. pression be admissible,) and certainly all the harmony and fitness of its proportions, and all the effect of attitude and force of composition, depended upon the work being viewed precisely at the distance in which Phidias designed that it should be seen. Its removal, therefore, from its situation, amounted to nothing less than its destruction:-take it down, and all the aim of the sculptor is instantly frustrated! Could any one believe that this was actually done and that it was done too in the name of a nation vain of its distinction in the fine arts! Nay more, that in doing

5

VOL. IX.

this, finding the removal of this piece of sculpture could not be effected without destroying the entire angle of the pediment, the work of destruction was allowed to proceed even to this extent also.'

It would not be easy to give a plausible colour to this part of the process. But regarding the proceeding generally, we should think the question of its justification in the court of taste, is now reduced to a very small compass. In which of two situations—left entirely and finally at once to the operation of the elements, and in the power of the most incorrigible barbarians, detesting the beautiful imagery, and gladly knocking the most exquisite forms in pieces to make lime,-or placed and preserved with the utmost care in the national repository of the most civilized people now in the world—in which of these two situations have these graceful relics the better chance for duration, and for contributing to the improvement of correct taste and elegant art? There seems no possibility of hesitating as to the reply; at least when the fact is added, that with small exception, it was only from absolute ruins that they were taken, so that no original violation was committed by their removal.

Dr. C. availing himself of the apparatus of the artists at the Parthenon, ascended to all the higher parts of the ruin, and examined the sculpture with the minutest attention.

• That on the metopes, representing the combats of the Centaurs and Lapithæ, is in such bold relief that the figures are all of them statues. Upon coming close to the work, and examining the state of the marble, it was evident that a very principal cause of the injuries it had sustained was owing, not, as it has been asserted, [by Dr. C. himself in a former publication] to "the zeal of the early Christians, the barbarism of the Turks, or to the explosions which took place when the temple was used as a powder magazine," but to the decomposition of the stone itself in consequence of the action of the atmosphere for so many ages. The mischief has originated in the sort of marble which was used for the building; this, not being entirely homogeneous, is characterized by a tendency to exfoliate, when long exposed to air and moisture. Any person may be convinced of this, who will examine the specimens of sculpture which have been since removed to this country from the Parthenon; although being expressly selected as the most perfect examples of the work, they do not exhibit this decomposition so visibly as the remaining parts of the building. But throughout the metopes, and in all the exquisite sculpture of the frieze which surrounded the outside of the cell of the temple, this may be observed: a person putting his hand behind the figures, or upon the plinth, where the parts have been less exposed to the atmosphere, may perceive the polished surface, as it was left when the work was finished, still preserving a high degree of smoothness; but the exterior parts of the stone have been altered by weathering; and where veins of schistus in the marble have been affected by decomposition, considerable parts have fallen off.'

It is the Pentelican marble, of which, exclusively, the Parthenon was constructed, that has this fault of being traversed by veins of extraneous substances, in consequence of which all ancient works finished in that material have suffered in some degree by decomposition; and many so much as to exhibit a surface as earthy and as rude as common limestone; whereas the works executed in Parian marble, retain, with all the delicate softness of wax, the mild lustre even of their original polish. Of the marble of Paros are the · Medicean Venus, the Belvidere Apollo, the Antinous, and many other celebrated works. That of Mount Pentelicus was preferred in the splendid age

of Athenian architecture and sculpture, on account of its being whiter, as well as nearer at hand. By the nature of the case, the only complete test of the comparative merits of the two substances, was out of reach; a long series of ages alone could give the proof.

In spite of all that a homely plain judgment of the utility of things, or a high and austere morality, can say and remonstrate, there seems to be in these efflorescences of heathen genius, even in their faded state, some inexterminable power of infection on the imagination of susceptible and highly cultivated spirits, which we must consent to admit as absolving them from the ordinary sobrieties of language. As witness our author: “A sight of the splendid solemnity of the whole Panathenaic Festival, represented by the best artists of ancient Greece, in one continued picture above three feet in height, and originally six hundred feet in length, of which a very considerable portion now remains, is alone worth a journey to Athens; nor will any scholar deem the undertaking to be unprofitable who should visit Greece for this alone.' Nevertheless, it is probable that many a “scholar' will behold with very little of this rapture, the most perfect, confessedly, of these pieces now in existence, placed in order, as they will soon be, in the British museum. But it will be justly alleged by Dr. Clarke, that they will there be seen, like princes in exile, under an inconceivable disadvan tage, as detached from all the imposing associations of their original and majestic locality. At the same time, it is right to observe, that the superlative excellence attributed to their execution, may be justly required to sustain even this severe test.

The journal of the time spent in Athens, abounds with curious and interesting matters; but we must abandon the fascinating scene in haste, to trace, in a few excessively briet noti

ces, the long diversified train of our author's succeeding adventures. One of the most entertaining of them, in the neighbourhood of Athens, is the bold and dexterous exploit of carrying off from Eleusis the ponderous mutilated statue of Ceres, now deposited, in collegiate honours, at Cambridge; a situation which, if he is challenged, in his turn, as one of the spoliators of Greece, he will probably not hesitate to affirm more befitting a goddess, than the being enthroned literally in a dunghill, even at Eleusis.

He quitted the Piræeus with the intention of sailing to Epidaurus; and after visiting Epidauria and Argolis, to return through the northern district of Peloponnesus, towards Megara and Eleusis.' In a grand scene of solitary ruins at Epidaurus, he had no doubt he ascertained the ground-plot of the temple of Æsculapius; and found in an uncommonly perfect state the theatre, which can be no other than that formed by Polycletus. At Tiryns he contemplated with amazement the walls, of cyclopean structure and unknown antiquity; a work than which, he says, “ with the exception of the interior structure of the pyramids, a more marvellous result of human labour has not been found upon earth. The destruction of Tiryns is of so remote antiquity, that its walls existed nearly as they do at present in the most remote periods of Grecian history. The prodigious masses of which they consist, were put together withoạt cement; and they are likely to brave the attacks of time through ages even more numerous than those which have elapsed since they were built. Owing to its walls, the city is ce. lebrated in the poems of Homer; and the satisfaction of seeing an example of the military architecture of the heroic ages, as it was beheld by him, is perhaps only granted to the moderns in this single instance. They have remained nearly in their present state above three thousand years. It is believed that they were erected long before the Trojan war.

Another high gratification of the same kind awaited the traveller in beholding the walls and gate of Mycenæ, and still more, the reputed tomb of Agamemnon, over the entrance of which is placed a stone - twenty-seven feet in length, seventeen feet in width, and four feet seven inches in thickness; perhaps the largest slab of hewn stone in the world.' At Argos, he had an opportunity of examining a great variety of terra cotta vases found in sepulchres; and he goes some length in an interesting inquiry concerning the intention with which such vessels were placed in tombs, leaving it undecided whether they were tokens of respect to the dead, or offerings to the Gods of the dead.'

Corinth is very

He pursued his route to Nemæa, Sicyon, and Corinth, examining the antiquities of each, and admiring the prodigious fertility of the ground between the last two. poor in ancient remains and has a pernicious air, which inAicted on our traveller a fever, but ill compensated by the magnificence of the view from its lofty and impregnable citadel. He could not leave the isthmus without an earnest and determined effort to discover the lost site of the Isthmian town, the temple of Neptune, the stadium, and the theatre. The earth was covered with fragments of various coloured marble, grey granite, white limestone, broken pottery, disjointed shafts, capitals and cornices. We observed part of the fluted shaft of a Doric column, which was five feet in diameter. Not a single pillar stands erect: the columns, with their entablatures, have all fallen.'

After a short valedictory visit to Athens, our author and his companion set off to the north west, to traverse the most memorable scenes of Hellas; which are described with an animation of style well corresponding to that ardent and indefatigable activity of investigation by which Dr. C. is so eminently distinguished. It is a region where a reflective traveller is never suffered to subside into a quietude of feeling. The spots and objects to excite enthusiasm occur at such short intervals, that before his enchanted musings on the last have given way to the fatigue and ordinary incidents of travelling, he finds himself in the presence or near prospect of still another object, which renovates his bright but pensive visions. The face of this illustrious tract is moulded in such a manner, and the distances are so moderate from one prominent and memorable position to another, that the traveller sees before him the consecrated eminence indicating the site of another of the renowned cities, before he ceases to lose in his retrospect the one which he has but just now surveyed, and of which he is still glowing with the inspirations. The country consists of so great a number of beautiful and sublime landscapes, as our author is confident no other part of the world can present in contiguity. And while so picturesque in the whole combination, they are disposed with a marvellous felicity for giving a completeness of scene, and a commanding effect to each of those cities, distinctly, of which the very names cannot be heard without emotion by cultivated spirits.' This unrivalled natural arrangement, repeatedly awakened the traveller's attention, and is celebrated by his accustomed vivacity of expression, combined in one of his references to it, with what is equally characteristic, a certain daring adventurousness with which he will at any time suddenly invade some speculative subject with an unqualified assertion.

« AnteriorContinuar »