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At some distance from this Athenian Exquisite stood Critias, and a party of rival sculptors and statuaries, endeavouring not to see the most obvious merits in the works before them, and shrugging up their shoulders at the infatuation of Pericles, in patronising an artist guilty of such gross blunders as they had already detected. In fact, they had discovered that - the wheel of Minerva's car wanted a linch-pin, while there were no marks for nails in one of the horse's shoes !
Three figures now approached me, whom I found to be Agatharchus, Parrhasius, and Zeuxis, the painters, the former of whom was vaunting the celerity and ease with which he finished his pieces. “If I boast, replied Zeuxis, “it shall be of the slowness with which I finish mine.” Discovering from their conversation that they were all employed in decorating the - walls of the Parthenon, I could not help reflecting upon the nobler destiny of the sculptor, whose immortal productions can be sent down unimpaired to the lowest posterity; while the most exquisite painters cannot hope to leave any evidence of their skill after the lapse of a very few centuries, and must content themselves, like the artists before me, with the shadowy perpetuation of a name.
Seated upon a stool, in front of the principal group, - I observed two venerable-looking men, each resting his chin upon a staff, while his hands were concealed by an ample beard. These were Sophocles and Euripides, the tragic writers, who agreed in pronouncing the composition before them defective, because it did
not contain the fates or the furies, whose presence they had been accustomed to consider indispensable in their own productions.—“Look attentively,” said my marble communicant, “at that broad-shouldered figure, in the philosopher's robes, conversing with two young men. It is Plato; and his companions are Xenophon and Thucydides, the historians; names which require no illustration, as they are assuredly destined to immortality."
Apart from the rest of the visitants, I distinguished a man of peculiarly sly expression, surveying the whole scene from the corners of his eyes, yet apparently wishing to assume an appearance of unconcern and indifference. This I found to be Damon, the deepest politician of Athens, the bosom-friend and counsellor of Pericles; who, in order to avoid the jealousy of the turbulent democracy, concealed his interference in state affairs, under the cloak of a professor of music. In this capacity, he had procured the Odeum to be built; where prizes were annually distributed to the best musical performers. He was conversing with Ictinus and Callicrates, the builders of the Parthenon, the latter of whom had just declared that it had already cost a thousand talents, and that he hoped the gold mines of Lauzium would hold out until it was completed-when a dislocation occurred in my ideas, which, without dissipating my reverie altogether, transferred it to modern times, and to the mutilated Theseus of the British Museum. As I gazed with intense admiration upon its back-that back, the sight of
which Canova declared to be well worth a journey from Rome-I could not help exclaiming, “ With what delight must the ancients, with their exquisite relish for sculpture, have pored upon this chef-d'auvre of Phidias !"
“ Alas!" replied the figure, "you forget that, although now the noblest fragment left, I then occupied, as a deified hero, but a very subordinate station among the deities of his majestic group. My recumbent posture was destined to fill up the angle of one pediment, as the Ilissus did of the other; and there was nothing but the celebrated horse's head between .my figure and the extremity of the building. This back, over which sculptors and anatomists now hang enraptured, might as well have been an unchiselled block; it was turned to the wall of the building, never meant to be seen ; and, in fact, no human eyes rested upon it for more than twenty-two centuries, when violence tore it from its position, and exhibited it to the applauses of the world. It was thus elaborately wrought, because it would have been held sacrilege to dedicate any thing imperfect to the gods; and because, in the exuberant opulence of his art, Phidias could afford to be extravagant, and throw away a masterpiece upon a blind wall. Judge hence of the superior majesty, of the more celestial grace and sublimity, by which the central figures were made glorious to the eyes; but judge not, even from them, of the pinnacle to which Phidias could exalt his art. All these were fashioned for exposure to the injuries of the weather,
and, from the great height at which they were to be viewed, were meant to excite admiration by the grandeur of general effect, rather than the exquisiteness of minute detail. Imagine the awful beauty of the statues within the temple, where both were to be combined ! Conceive the stupendous symmetry of the Minerva, thirty-nine feet high-the still more majestic proportions of the Olympian Jupiter, executed for the Eleans !"
How long this enumeration might have continued it is impossible to say ; but it was rudelybroken, and the whole fabric of my reverie demolished, by the voice of the Museum porter,—“Sir, you're the only gemman left, and we always locks the doors at six.”— Once more I surveyed the marble upon which the living eyes of all the illustrious persons I have mentioned had been formerly fixed, as well as those of Cicero, Pliny, Pausanias, and Plutarch, who have recorded their visits to the Parthenon; and then, with slow steps, I quitted the building. On reaching the street, I still doubted whether I was in the 'Acropolis, the Agora, or before the theatre of Bacchus; when a lamplighter, scampering by me, skipped up his ladder, -and, by the light of his link, I discovered, printed
a black board, “GREAT RUSSELL STREET, BLOOMSBURY."
Most courteous Reader, pray permit the Fool
To doff his cap and bells for your politeness,
And all pedantic ligature and tightness;
(One Mister Muggs is hero of the poem ;)
Ours shall be usher'd by a pompous proem. So for your ample solace and instruction, Take this grave sample of an
No sweet Arcadian pipe is mine-
banks of Helicon, Committed to some favour'd son, Whose wild and magic melodies,
From banks of flowers,
And myrtle bowers, Bade nymphs and sylvan boys arise, To form, with laughing loves, an earthly Paradise.
I may not, with the classic few, Snatch inspiration from the Muses' hill;
Nor, raptured, quaff poetic dew From Aganippe's rill.
Vales and mountains,
Grots and fountains,
Sense inviting, soul delighting,