The Parthenon marbles had a time and a rightful place for Keats | Letters

An enlightened British Museum should begin talks with the Greeks about returning the sculptures, says George Vardas, while AM Gledhill suggests casts should be taken of artefacts and the originals repatriated

I applaud the eloquent rebuttal offered by Alexi Kaye Campbell in response to Jonathan Jones’ article defending the British Museum over the Parthenon marbles (Letters, 1 February). I would also add that Jones has misunderstood the poet John Keats’ reaction to the sculptures. Keats wrote a sonnet in 1816 entitled “On Seeing the Elgin Marbles” in which the young, fragile poet’s own mortality is contrasted with “each imagined pinnacle and steep / Of godlike hardship”, the artistic achievement of “Grecian grandeur” and the “magnitude” projected by the sculptures.

Keats laments the temporal dislocation and uprooting of the sculptures from their ancient past. His poem underscores his realisation that these scattered fragments of a classical order, now on display as museum pieces, are not immune to the “rude wasting” of old time. He is burdened by an “undescribable feud” and a sense of tension caused by the loss of the sculptures’ identity when transplanted to an English museum.

If the British Museum wants to demonstrate true reverence to this issue, the trustees would agree to at least initiating meaningful discussions with the Greeks to try to arrive at a sensible arrangement for the reunification of the sculptures. That would be truly creative and enlightened.
George Vardas
Secretary, International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures

• The obvious answer for the Elgin marbles is for the British Museum to take casts and put them on display and return the originals to their natural place of origin. This applies to all artefacts that were taken from around the world over the years, as long as they are recorded before they are returned.
AM Gledhill
Folkestone, Kent

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