English Bards and Grecian Marbles: The Relationship between Sculpture and Poetry Especially in the Romantic Period

By Stephen A. Larrabee | Go to book overview

XI. THE LESSER POETS

THE "OLD ANTIQUE"

FOR THE LESSER POETS of the Romantic period the Antique still exerted great attraction; hardly a poet failed at some time to respond to the "marvellous power" of Grecian sculpture. What Haydon termed the "old antique" in contrast to the Parthenon figures remained popular, especially with poets who saw ancient sculpture principally in books or in Paris and Italy. The ideas associated with the Antique in the eighteenth century likewise survived in many poems of the early nineteenth century, while the characteristically "romantic" responses of Coleridge and Wordsworth spread somewhat slowly among the poets. For a number of reasons, then, the "old antique" more than held its own against the Elgin Marbles in the first third of the nineteenth century.

Travel on the Continent was still almost a necessity for both poet and gentleman. The familiar Greco-Roman statues became more accessible to Englishmen than ever before, when Napoleon brought the Apollo Belvedere, the Venus de Medici, the Laocoün, the Torso Belvedere, and the Horses of Lysippus to France as part of the spoil of his Italian campaigns. After the Peace of Amiens in 1802 many Englishmen scurried across the Channel to behold those miracles of ancient art. In Elements of Art; a Poem; in Six Cantos; with Notes and a Preface; Including Strictures on the State of the Arts, Criticism, Patronage, and Public Taste ( 1809) Martin Shee, R.A., related the story of the installation of the Apollo in the Louvre in what became known as the Salle d'Apollon. He regretted, too, that the English had not succeeded in marching to Paris in order to pillage the Louvre:

The author confesses, that he would have seen with a very patriotic exultation, a detachment of the committee of Taste under some adventurous virtuoso, or a well selected rifle corps of the Royal Academy, appointed to

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