Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 2.djvu/516

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472
[CANTO IV.
CHILDE HAROLD’S PILGRIMAGE.

level with the other foot. The horses also are returned [A.D. 1815] to the ill-chosen spot whence they set out, and are, as before, half hidden under the porch window of St. Mark's Church. Their history, after a desperate struggle, has been satisfactorily explored. The decisions and doubts of Erizzo and Zanetti, and lastly, of the Count Leopold Cicognara, would have given them a Roman extraction, and a pedigree not more ancient than the reign of Nero. But M. de Schlegel stepped in to teach the Venetians the value of their own treasures; and a Greek vindicated, at last and for ever, the pretension of his countrymen to this noble production.[1] M. Mustoxidi has not been left without a reply; but, as yet, he has received no answer. It should seem that the horses are irrevocably Chian, and were transferred to Constantinople by Theodosius. Lapidary writing is a favourite play of the Italians, and has conferred reputation on more than one of their literary characters. One of the best specimens of Bodoni's typography is a respectable volume of inscriptions, all written by his friend Pacciaudi. Several were prepared for the recovered horses. It is to be hoped the best was not selected, when the following words were ranged in gold letters above the cathedral porch;—

QUATUOR • EQUORUM • SIGNA • A • VENETIS • BYZANTIO • CAPTA • AD • TEMP • D • MAR • A • R • S • MCCIV • POSITA • QUÆ • HOSTILIS • CUPIDITAS • A • MDCCIIIC • ABSTULERAT • FRANC • I • IMP • PACIS • ORBI • DATÆ • TROPHÆUM • A • MDCCCXV • VICTOR • REDUXIT.

Nothing shall be said of the Latin, but it may be permitted to observe, that the injustice of the Venetians in transporting the horses from Constantinople [A.D. 1204] was at least equal to that of the French in carrying them to Paris [A.D. 1797], and that it would have been more prudent to have avoided all allusions to either robbery. An apostolic prince should, perhaps, have objected to affixing over the principal entrance of a metropolitan church an inscription having a reference to any other triumphs than those of religion. Nothing less than the pacification of the world can excuse such a solecism.


  1. Su i Quattro Cavalli della Basilica di S. Marco in Venezia. Lettera di Andrea Mustoxidi Corcirese. Padova, 1816.