Areopagus Volume LXXVIII

Areopagus Volume LXXVIII

Welcome one and all to the seventy eighth volume of the Areopagus. There is only one way to begin this week's missive: with Lord Byron, who died 200 years ago yesterday. He was thirty six at the time and had fallen sick in Missolonghi. Why was he there? To support the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire. Enough of poetry — the time had come to put his money where his mouth was, and literally so. Byron poured everything he had into the Greek cause, financially and physically and reputationally. It claimed his life before the war was won, but it was won in the end. To have played any part in that, he would surely have said, was a greater legacy than he could have writ in verse.

Which to select, of the many lines he wrote, to set the tone for us? Perhaps these, from Don Juan:

Heads or tails, then, let the seven short lessons commence!

I - Classical Music

Harold en Italie — II: March of the Pilgrims

Hector Berlioz (1834)

Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra
Childe Harold by JMW Turner

Lord Byron was not only popular in Britain. In truth, Byron was more popular in continental Europe — there his poetry was held in higher esteem and his influence more marked. Many considered him the world's greatest living writer, perhaps second only to Goethe. Suffice to say, in any case, that he was one of the first examples of what we would now call a rock star: feverishly famous, his every life choice a fixture of news and gossip, and the man himself simultaneously fanning the flames of his fame and fleeing from it.

Don't take my word for this; Byron's popularity left fingerprints all over 19th century culture. Artists as varied and famous as Theodore Géricault, Eugène Delacroix, Francesco Hayez, JMW Turner, and John Martin all made paintings based on his work, and composers like Beethoven, Schumann, Verdi, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, and Schoenberg did the same with music. Thus it seems only appropriate to include such music today.

Here we have the second part of Harold en Italie by Hector Berlioz, a wonderfully elusive four part composition for viola and orchestra written in 1834. It was inspired by Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, published between 1812 and 1819, the work which shot Byron to international stardom. You may already know about Childe Harold. But, if not, I shall say nothing. Rather, I shall leave you to try and figure out — as you listen to the music — the themes and subject of the poem.

II - Historical Figure

Agrippina the Younger

Women do not feature prominently in much of Greek or Roman history — an unsurprising fact when we learn that, for example, women were not considered citizens in Ancient Athens, thus barring them from voting and indeed from all political and public life. The same was more or less true in the Roman Republic, with the exception of certain religious offices.

With the rise of the Roman Empire, however, this changed somewhat. Women were still legally barred from public life, but because the governance of the Roman state was now conducted from a household — that is, of the emperor — rather than the Senate, female members of the imperial family suddenly found themselves at the centre of continental affairs. Enter Agrippina the Younger, a woman who dominated Roman politics and in some ways changed the course of history. Her story also reveals, in beautifully convoluted detail, the bizarre politics of the Roman Empire.

The place to begin is with Claudius. He is certainly the most interesting of the early Roman emperors. In short, he only survived the tyrannical reign of Caligula — when countless members of the imperial family, and therefore potential rivals to the throne, were eliminated — because literally nobody thought he was capable of seizing power. He was a meek man, prone to dribbling, who had a limp and frequently fumbled his words.

He must have been more surprised than anybody when, after Caligula's assassination in 41 AD, the Praetorian Guard found him cowering behind a curtain in the palace and promptly declared him Emperor. Now, there is a typical narrative with Claudius — that, along with his general cluelessness, he was dominated by others. Again, I stress, this is an ancient stereotype. More recent scholarship has attributed much successful reform to Claudius, especially given the situation he inherited from Caligula.

Enter Agrippina the Younger. Her reputation is bound to be complicated by Roman attitudes toward women; uncovering the real Agrippina from the narrative of a conniving and coquettish wife is difficult work. Still, there seems to be a grudging respect for her political astuteness even in the most misogynistic accounts of her life. Who was she? Caligula's sister. Her great-grandfather was Augustus himself and her father was Germanicus, widely regarded even at the time as the greatest emperor Rome never had. He died young, supposedly poisoned by a political rival called Piso, who himself died in mysterious circumstances during his subsequent trial before the Senate. A bloody trail, then, and one that only gets bloodier.

Agrippina was also Claudius' niece. He had already been married thrice and had an heir in his son, Britannicus, born to his third wife Valeria Messalina. What happened to Messalina? In 48 AD she married a man called Silius, her not-so-secret lover, in a public ceremony when Claudius was away from Rome. In the aftermath she was accused of plotting against him and executed. There are lingering theories that Agrippina had some role in Messalina's death, not least because Messalina — having realised Agrippina and her young son were the only potential rivals to Britannicus' position as successor — had persecuted her. Nor was this the only hardship Agrippina faced; during the reign of Caligula she had been exiled to the Pontine Islands in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.

Well, Messalina was gone. And, acting on the counsel of his advisors, Claudius married Agrippina in 49 AD. Suetonius suggests, however, this was a moment she had long plotted:

But being ensnared by the arts of Agrippina... who took advantage of the kisses and endearments which their near relationship admitted, to inflame his desires, he got some one to propose at the next meeting of the senate, that they should oblige the emperor to marry Agrippina, as a measure highly conducive to the public interest.

So, from what seemed like a hopeless position, she had become the Empress of Rome.

Her next act was to replace Britannicus as heir. Who would replace him? Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, her son by a previous marriage. Might this plan have something to do with decades-old grievances about the way her family had been treated? Perhaps. She slowly drove a wedge between Claudius and Britannicus, relying on her network of political alliances to do so, until Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus had Nero added to his name (yes, that Nero) and was proclaimed joint-heir alongside Britannicus. Agrippina then arranged for Nero to marry Octavia, one of Claudius' daughters, further cementing his position. She also convinced her husband to bring the famed philosopher and writer Seneca out of exile — having being exiled by Claudius — so he could be a tutor to Nero. From Tacitus:

Agrippina, on the other hand, not to owe her reputation entirely to crime, procured a remission of banishment for Annaeus Seneca,​ along with a praetor­ship: his literary fame, she conceived, would make the act popular with the nation; while she was anxious to gain so distinguished a tutor for Domitius in his transit from boyhood to adolescence, and to profit by his advice in their designs upon the throne.

Soon enough Claudius adopted Nero as his own son and even made him sole heir. Thus arrived the final stage of Agrippina's plan (if ancient writers are to be believed!) — Claudius' death. We shall never know for sure whether he was, as they claim, poisoned, and whether Agrippina was guilty. Suetonius claims Claudius was beginning to regret their marriage and his proclamation of Nero as successor, thus prompting Agrippina to act before he could meddle with her plan:

Towards the close of his life, he gave some manifest indications that he repented of his marriage with Agrippina, and his adoption of Nero.

We do know that he went quickly, dying just twelve hours after first falling ill. His final words? "Oh dear, I seem to have shit myself." Thereafter Nero was proclaimed emperor and, if you know anything about Roman history, the rest is history. However, Tacitus' first lines about the new reign give some indication of who was really in control:

The first death under the new principate, that of Junius Silanus, proconsul of Asia, was brought to pass, without Nero's cognizance, by treachery on the part of Agrippina.

But not for long.

Agrippina's end is shrouded in contradiction. There are several accounts of her death, some even involving booby-trapped boats. What they all have in common is that Agrippina was murdered by her son, the Emperor Nero, either because he wanted to cast off her overbearing influence or because he had been manipulated by his wife, Poppaea Sabina.

So, what is Agrippina's legacy? Despite repeated accusations of incestuousness, treachery, and such like, it does seem that Agrippina was something of a restraint on her son; it was only after his mother's death that Nero became the mad tyrant he is now universally known as, during which time Rome was burned to the ground, his former tutor Seneca was sentenced to death, and Nero forced the whole world to indulge in his private fantasies of poetic glory.

We must end by noting that Agrippina also wrote one of those tantalising documents that have been lost to time — her memoirs! Tacitus used them as a source for his Annals, but otherwise there is no record of them. One wonders how she would have told her own story. Honestly, perhaps, revealing her true feelings, regrets, and hopes? Or it would have been, as so much of her life seemingly was, a perfectly composed political masterstroke? We may only speculate.

III - Painting

April, 1874

Not a painting, this week, but a collection of paintings — 165, in fact. Why? Because 150 years ago this week a small, independent exhibition opened in Paris. It was held on the top floor of a building on the Boulevard des Capucines, formerly the studio of a famous photographer called Nadar, and it was organised by a group simply calling themselves the "Société anonyme des artistes peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs, etc".

This had been organised in direct opposition to the Paris Salon, an annual exhibition organised by the Académie des Beaux-Arts which was the most prestigious and important event of the European art scene — the public attended in droves, along with wealthy patrons and art collectors. There was another exhibition organised by the Academy, called the Salon des Refusés, comprising paintings that had been rejected by the jury for the main Salon. This, too, had become a prestigious event. But these "anonymous artists" wanted to stand apart from the entire French artistic establishment — a thing more or less unprecedented.

It lasted for a month, little more than 3,000 people attended — compared to half a million at that year's Paris Salon, which opened two weeks later — and their inability to pay off the cost of hosting this exhibition meant their society was legally liquidated in the aftermath. Nor was there overly much in the way of press attention. So what makes this seemingly innocuous event worth mentioning?

Well, one of those who did attend the exhibition — along with several hundred who came not to admire the art but to mock it — was a man called Louis Leroy. He was the resident art critic at a satirical magazine called Le Charivari, and his review was suitably satirical, mocking these artistic upstarts and cultural conservatives in equal measure. What was the title of his review? "The Exhibition of the Impressionists". Now you see why this was such a landmark moment! It was Leroy himself who coined the term "Impressionism", playing on the title of Claude Monet's Impression, Sunrise and the seemingly unfinished style of these artists.

Impressionism does not seem so radical to us — but that is because of how influential these artists were, and how rapidly art evolved in the decades following their emergence. But if we compare some of those paintings from the first Impressionist exhibition of 1874 with the sort of thing being shown at the Paris Salon, you shall see in an instant just how revolutionary and controversial they were. Consider something like The Birth of Venus by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, an Academic painter who dominated the Salon:

And compare it to A Modern Olympia by Paul Cézanne, singled out by Leroy as the strangest of all the paintings at the exhibition:

Quite the difference!

Rather than focussing on a single painting, or even on the "style" of the so-called Impressionists, I hope it has been more interesting — and useful — to focus on this exhibition as a historical moment. Because we often forget that art is only what specific people have done at specific moments in time — people just like you and me with all our doubts, hopes, insecurities, and changeful moods. A letter from Claude Monet, written a few years after that first exhibition, brings Impressionism as something that happened, rather than an abstract artistic experiment, to life:

I am absolutely sickened with and demoralized by this life, I've been leading for so long. When you get to my age, there is nothing more to look forward to. Unhappy we are, unhappy we'll stay. Each day brings its tribulations and each day difficulties arise... So I'm giving up the struggle once and for all, abandoning all hope of success... I hear my friends are preparing another exhibition this year but I'm ruling out the possibility of participating in it, as I just don't have anything worth showing.

We know what happened next — Impressionism was victorious. But, for those artists at the first exhibition of 1874, they could never have known that this would come to pass, that they would change the world of art and indeed become beloved in every corner of the globe. For Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne, Camille Pissarro, Berthe Morisot, Alfred Sisley, and those other now-legendary painters who made the bold and apparently failed decision to stage an independent exhibition, the conclusion was not foregone. This story is a reminder, then, that art is just as much about people as it is about paintings.

IV - Architecture

The Globe

Shakespeare Reborn

The Globe was a theatre built in London in 1599 and burned down in 1614; it was rebuilt two years later and demolished, with Civil War looming over England, in 1644. This was a typical Elizabethan playhouse: circular, with two galleries (the expensive seats), a courtyard (the cheap tickets), and a raised stage thrusting out into the centre of the circle. It had a thatched roof and walls of timber infill. It was packed out with perhaps three thousand spectators at a time, and it was in the Globe that many of Shakespeare's now-iconic plays were debuted, and in which he even acted himself. But, if this playhouse burned down... why is it still standing?

To answer that question we must leap forward in time. Because the next stage of the story begins with Sam Wanamaker, an American actor and director who ended up in England — preferring it there because, in the United States, his supposed Communist leanings made him unwelcome. But before he ever went to England, Wanamaker's vision of it had been fixed by a visit to the Chicago World's Fair in 1932. There, barely a teenager, at the "Merrie England" exhibition, he saw a replica of The Globe and fell in love.

So you can imagine Wanamaker's surprise (and shock) when he finally came to London — at this point an established and successful actor — and discovered that the only sign of the Globe ever having existed was a tarnished bronze plaque on a nearby brewery. Over the site of the original was nothing more than a collection of Georgian townhouses. Shocking in its own right, he thought, but even more so given that there were several replicas of the Globe — with varying degrees of accuracy — dotted around the United States and also in countries as far afield as Argentina and Japan. So his life's mission was established there and then: to rebuild Shakespeare's Globe exactly as it stood in 1599.

The official journey began in 1970 with the establishment of a charity dedicated not only to rebuilding the Globe but to creating an international centre of preservation, scholarship, and community. It was a surprisingly bumpy road. There was little official support and the buildings on the site of the original Globe were Listed, and therefore could not be demolished. A site nearby, on the south bank of the Thames, was identified — this had been earmarked for commercial or residential development. Negotiations were tricky but Wanamaker and those working with him had sufficient passion to find a way. And they did.

Wanamaker worked with the architect Theo Crosby on the design of the Globe. It presented serious challenges, not only because they had to figure out what the Globe had actually looked like — there are no surviving plans of the original — but also because of stringent building regulations. And so the design process was something like a tripartite duel between historians, actors, and regulators. People said it would never happen. And yet, about three hundred feet from where the original had stood three centuries before, the skeleton of a new Globe emerged.

Neither Sam Wanamaker nor Theo Crosby lived to see their Globe completed — Wanamaker died in 1993 and Crosby in 1994. It was in 1997 that their project finally came to fruition and opened to the public with a performance of Henry V. Since then it has become a sort of London landmark, packed out consistently for performances both traditional and experimental. In short, the Globe has been an unqualified success. Indeed, the only question it has raised is why this project was not undertaken earlier — and why similar projects are not more common.

But the story does not quite end there: Wanamaker's ambition was also to build a period-accurate, indoor Tudor theatre adjacent to the Globe. This project was longer in the teething; though plans were drawn up and a brick exterior built, work stalled for years (partly because of regulatory roadblocks) and it wasn't opened until 2014. Why the delay? Because, true to history, the idea was to have this indoor theatre be entirely candlelit. Quite a challenge in the modern day. But against all odds, once again, they succeeded, and candlelit performances have been going on there for a decade now. This new theatre was duly named the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. A fitting tribute, surely, to a man who brought Shakespeare's Globe back to life and has given to Britain a long overdue cultural and architectural legacy worthy of its greatest playwright.

V - Rhetoric


If you read some Norse or Anglo-Saxon poetry there is one thing, above all, that will strike you: why do they never call things what they are? Let me give you some examples:

  • breaker of rings
  • feeder of ravens
  • elf-beam
  • swan of blood
  • whale-road
  • leek of battle
  • Ymir's skull
  • battle sweat

What do you suppose these phrases mean? Read them slowly and they may reveal themselves... or not! These devices are called kennings, whereby an object, person, concept, or place is referred to by a composite of other words. Some were mythical in origin, such as calling the sky "Ymir's skull", and thus rely on specific cultural knowledge. The same is true for "breaker of rings", which signified a chieftain or leader. Some were almost euphemistic in the way they downplayed violence, like calling blood "battle sweat". Some were more typical poetic metaphors, as calling the sea "whale-road". And others verged on irony, such as calling a sword a "leek of battle", while some were almost grimly satirical, as when battle was called "feeder of ravens".

Arthur Quiller-Couch, an early 20th century literary critic who once delivered a marvellous series of lectures known as On the Art of Writing, remarked on this habit of refusing to call a thing by its name — remarking, by chance, on a student's essay about Lord Byron:

An undergraduate brings me an essay on Byron. In an essay on Byron, Byron is (or ought to be) mentioned many times. I expect, nay exact, that Bryon shall be mentioned again and again. But my undergraduate has a blushing sense that to call Byron Byron twice on one page is indelicate. So Byron, after starting bravely as Byron, in the second sentence turns into 'that great but unequal poet' and thenceforward I have as much trouble with Byron as ever Telemachus with Proteus to hold and pin him back to his proper self. Half-way down the page he becomes 'the gloomy master of Newstead': overleaf he is reincarnated into 'the meteoric darling of society': and so proceeds through successive avatars—'this arch-rebel,' 'the author of Childe Harold,' 'the apostle of scorn,' 'the ex-Harrovian, proud, but abnormally sensitive of his club-foot,' 'the martyr of Missolonghi,' 'the pageant-monger of a bleeding heart.' Now this again is Jargon. It does not, as most Jargon does, come of laziness; but it comes of timidity, which is worse. In literature as in life he makes himself felt who not only calls a spade a spade but has the pluck to double spades and re-double.

Done poorly, indeed, this sort of "Elegant Variation" sounds painfully artificial and needlessly roundabout. But this is not what kennings were for; they played a crucial role in Norse and Old English poetry, adding a time-honoured linguistic texture woven — by virtue of their references to mythology and details of daily life — into their culture. It is also worth noting that, in Norse mythology, to know a person's true name was of an imprecise but definitive importance. Thus we find a number of tales in which our heroes refuse to reveal their real names to the foes they encounter. It seems to me this may have some relation to the prevalence of kennings.

Why, you ask, have I included kennings under Rhetoric rather than Writing? Because their origins — along with origins of poetry itself! — are oral. They were not invented by scholars with ink and paper, but by illiterate bards performing round fires and in mead-halls, part of a centuries' old tradition of storytelling.

VI - Writing

Miracles of Rag-Paper

We take writing I mean the peculiar symbols, of ink or pixels, by which information is invisibly delivered from another person's mind to ours — for granted. A question occurred to me the other day: what would the world be like without writing? Can you even imagine it? No notifications, no road signs, no food labelling, no adverts, no registration plates on cars, no names on the back of football jerseys. Yes, words are literally everywhere we look. And, thinking on this, something Thomas Carlyle once wrote came to mind. It is a marvellous quote and one, I think, that demands some contemplation. It certainly made me more appreciative of those glued-together bundles of paper lying on my desk:

On all sides, are we not driven to the conclusion that, of the things which man can do or make here below, by far the most momentous, wonderful and worthy are the things we call Books! Those poor bits of rag-paper with black ink on them;—from the Daily Newspaper to the sacred Hebrew BOOK, what have they not done, what are they not doing!—For indeed, whatever be the outward form of the thing (bits of paper, as we say, and black ink), is it not verily, at bottom, the highest act of man's faculty that produces a Book? It is the Thought of man; the true thaumaturgic virtue; by which man works all things whatsoever. All that he does, and brings to pass, is the vesture of a Thought. This London City, with all its houses, palaces, steam-engines, cathedrals, and huge immeasurable traffic and tumult, what is it but a Thought, but millions of Thoughts made into One;—a huge immeasurable Spirit of a THOUGHT, embodied in brick, in iron, smoke, dust, Palaces, Parliaments, Hackney Coaches, Katherine Docks, and the rest of it! Not a brick was made but some man had to
think of the making of that brick.—The thing we called "bits of paper with traces of black ink," is the
purest embodiment a Thought of man can have. No wonder it is, in all ways, the activest and noblest.

VII - The Seventh Plinth


It is often said Lord Byron "embodied" Romanticism like no other, both in his life and his work. There are different kinds of Romanticism, of course, and there is a sense in which somebody like William Wordsworth or Richard Wagner may have embodied certain of its currents more closely. Still, the words "Romantic" and "Byron" are unseverable — and this is a stereotype, unlike many we retrospectively create, that was true even in his own lifetime. It seems he could not escape the myth he had created for himself, and words like "Byronic" were already knocking about before he even knew what he was himself.

This word, Byronic, is an eponym. An eponym is a word based on a proper noun. Byron is a proper noun — a name — while Byronic is an adjective based on that name. Unlike other adjectives these eponyms are usually capitalised. A few examples should dispel any confusion here:

Kafka → Kafkaesque
Orwell → Orwellian
Napoleon → Napoleonic

These sorts of eponyms are obvious because we are also familiar with the names of the people they come from. But eponyms are actually more common than we realise. The Cyrillic Alphabet is one — it takes its name from Saint Cyril, who along with Saint Methodius created a new Slavic alphabet in the 10th century. Another is Spoonerism, when we mix up the letters at the beginning of consecutive words, perhaps saying, "it is a very dainy ray." This was named for William Spooner, a dean of New College in Oxford who was famed for his habits of doing just that. Even August is an eponym — the Roman Senate voted to rename the month Quintilis after Augustus in his honour. And, from Augustus' uncle and predecessor Julius Caesar, we have the word Caesar itself, used later to refer to all Roman Emperors, regardless of whether they were related to him, along with both Tsar and Kaiser, which are corruptions of Caesar. A lesser-known eponym is algorithm — it is a latinised and heavily corrupted form of, Al-Khwarizmi the Persian polymath who played a major role in the development of algebra. Now, as they say, you know!

Question of the Week

Last week's question to test your critical thinking was:

If you could travel forward in time to any point in the future, what would it be?

These were some of your answers...

Rosemary B

I want to travel forwards as quickly as possible to Robert Burns’ prediction
‘ That Man to Man the world o’er,
Shall brothers be, for a’ that.’

Colin W

To the moment immediately after death.

Sherron V

I would like to be about 1000 years ahead and read an historical account of the early 2000s.

Femi A

Simple, I would go to a time where they discovered the cure for death. I've always had plans to live forever. and i'm not giving up as I grow older.

Cristian L

That's a fascinating question! If I could travel forward in time, I'd probably choose a point far enough ahead where humanity has made significant advancements in science, technology, and society. Maybe a century or two ahead, just to see how far we've come and what new innovations and discoveries have emerged. It would be exciting to witness how humanity has addressed current challenges and what new challenges we've encountered along the way.
(Disclaimer: this is a ChatGPT response. My real answer below).
I would like to travel to the point where the technological singularity is a reality, in the hope I can see a better world than today, but I have my doubts: technology and humanity had been diverging in the last 30 years.

Alex D

On the assumption that I could come back, I would like to see 100 years into the future. This would allow me to see the future of society as a result of a change in demographics, climate, and technology, but still hopefully be relatable enough for me to learn lessons and bring them back with me to better educate my son for what lies ahead.

Jonathan R

If I could travel forward in time, to any point in the future, I would travel to the year 2500. Letting my imagination and hope take over here… By the year 2500, humanity has surpassed many existential crises such as Global Warming, numerous pandemics and asteroid impacts to name a few. These experiences have strengthened our species by forcing global collaboration time and time again. The last known war was fought in the year 2312 and the globe has lived almost 2 centuries of peace mainly due to diplomatic initiatives (although the fact that we all look roughly the same now certainly helps). Bullet trains connect all major cities in all countries around the world traveling at 75% the speed of sound. Many countries have imposed child bearing limits and average life expectancy is over 100 years. Humans now categorize themselves as naturals or cyborgs.
Call it hope or wishful thinking. Either way, I don’t have the ability to comprehend if these predictions are feasible within 500 years.

Richard W

I assume, for the sake of both argument and simplicity, that this is a one-time opportunity, that the point in the future can be a specific occasion rather than a named date, and that as well as travelling forward to a point in the future, one can then also travel back to the present.
Those criteria having been set, the point in the future which I should like to observe is my own death. Yes, there are many exciting future occasions which would be more exciting - the first Mars landing, the birth of a descendent, or the end of the known universe.
However, by being aware of the date of my own death and its cause, I would be in a position to make detailed plans to be able to make best use of the time still available to me while alive, and enjoy the time remaining to the maximum. I would then get in a position to (hopefully) complete a 'bucket list', provide the best of support to others and leave a legacy of which I would be proud.

Candice H

I think I would like to travel to the last days or weeks of my children’s lives, to see who they have become and how they lived their lives. Right now I have three teenage boys, and I think my view of who they are is often short-sighted. I am correcting them often in their housework or school work, or how they spend too much time on their screens. But maybe I need to remember that they will become good men someday, with families of their own (I hope), and they will have made a contribution to the world around them, and it would be nice to have that wider and deeper view of them, to help me to remember to treat them with greater dignity and confidence in my interactions with them during these short teenage years.

This week's question is inspired by Lord Byron. He famously opposed the removal of the Parthenon Marbles (sometimes called the Elgin Marbles), which were taken from Athens to Britain during his lifetime, where they remain today. As he said:

Dull is the eye that will not weep to see
Thy walls defaced, thy mouldering shrines removed,
By British hands, which it had best behoved
To guard those relics ne'er to be restored.

So, I ask:

Should the Parthenon Marbles be returned to Greece?

Email me your answers and I'll share them in next week's newsletter.

And that's all

As we started must we end — with Lord Byron. What of his poetry to sing us out? The third to last stanza of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage seems to have been the epitaph he wrote for himself. An invocation, above all else, to live.

But I have lived, and have not lived in vain:
⁠My mind may lose its force, my blood its fire,
⁠And my frame perish even in conquering pain;
⁠But there is that within me which shall tire
⁠Torture and Time, and breathe when I expire;
⁠Something unearthly, which they deem not of,
⁠Like the remembered tone of a mute lyre,
⁠Shall on their softened spirits sink, and move
In hearts all rocky now the late remorse of Love.

I shall you see you anon, dear reader — long live life!


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