Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

Another convincing proof of the close affinity between Sano scrit and Greek, is afforded, in my opinion by the near coincidence between them in their system of prosody. On this point we have the conclusive testimony of Sir William Jones. 1 The Sanscrit prosody is easy and beautiful. The learned 6 will find in it almost all the measures of the Greeks, and it “is remarkable, that the language of the Bramins runs very “naturally into Sapphics, Alcaics, and lambics." *

A variety of other instances of the affinity or analogy between these two languages have been taken notice of by other writers, since the time that the idea was first started by Mr. Halhed and Mr. Wilkins; but the most decisive statement I have yet met with on the subject, occurs in a letter addressed to an anonymous correspondent in England, by the Rev. David Brown, Provost of the College of Fort William. The letter is dated Calcutta, 13th September 1806.

After mentioning that a translation by the missionaries of the two first gospels will be ready by the end of this year, Mr. Brown adds, Shanscrit answers to Greek as face answers to “face in a glass. The translation will be perfect, while it will « be almost verbal. A Shanscrit edition of the Gospels will “ be published with the Greek on the opposite page, as soon

as we can procure Greek types. You will find the verb in “ the corresponding mood and tense, the noun and adjective in “the corresponding case and gender. The idiom and govern"ment are the same; where the Greek is absolute, so is the “Shanscrit, and in many instances the primitives or roots are "the same. This will exhibit a curious phenomenon to the "learned in Europe." +

to

ted, upon his authority, by Lord Monboddo, in the 4th volume of his Ancient Metaphysics, p. 331. His words are these:-“ But a more extraordinary compo"sition in the Sanscrit than any I have hitherto mentioned, and which is the same

in the Greek, and is so remarkable a peculiarity in both languages, that I think "it is impossible it could exist, except in languages that were originally the same. "The composition I mean is of words with the letter a, implying a negation of " the quality expressed by the word ; for which reason it is called by the Greek grammarians the a privative, such as the words expatos, arapins, and hundreds

of others. Now, I am told, not only by Mr. Wilkins, but by others who have applied to the study of the Sanscrit, particularly Mr. Hastings, who is not only a good Greek scholar, but learned in the Sanscrit, that this composition is as common in that language as it is in Greek.” * Works of Sir William Jones, Vol. I. p. 359.

† For some farther information on this subject, the curious reader is referred to an article in the 33d volume of the Edingburgh Review, p. 431, where some very striking analogies between Greek and Sanscrit, (particularly in the inflections of the verbs,) are quoted from a German publication by Francis Bopp. I regret much, that my total ignorance of the language puts it out of my power to have recourse to the original work.

[ocr errors]

On a coincidence so astonishing, it would perhaps be more prudent for me to be totally silent; but the reader will, I hope, pardon me if I add a few conjectures to those of my predeces. sors, concerning a fact which may be regarded as unparalleled in the history of man. These conjectures were suggested to me by a remark thrown out by Mr. Gibbon in his history. “I have long harboured a suspicion (he observes) that some, "perhaps much, of the Indian science was derived from the “Greeks of Bactriana.”* To this hint, however, I paid but little attention, till I found the same opinion stated with considerable confidence by the very learned Meiners in his Historia de Vero Deo; who refers, in support of it, to the proofs alleged by Bayer in his Historia Regni Græcorum Bactri. ani. But, on looking into this work of Bayer, I was much disappointed to find that it embraces only a very narrow corner of Indian science; relating almost entirely to the names of numbers; the division of time into minutes, hours, weeks, months, &c.; the Hindoo calendar; and certain astronomical cycles ;-which hé labours to show that the Indians derived from the Greeks, and not the Greeks from the Indians. In his argument on this head he displays much curious learning: but he indulges also a good deal in conjectures; and the apology he offers for these appears to me just and philosophical. Indeed it was chiefly to introduce this apology that I was led at present to refer to his work, as I fatter myself it may serve, in some measure, to justify my presumption in indulging imagination a little upon a subject of which I have no pretension to treat from any knowledge of Eastern languages. 66 Sed de “ Græcis artibus, quemadmodum cum oriente communicatæ fu"erint, ex conjectura egi. Quo in loco veniam mihi dari cu"pio, si minutis suspicionibus plus fuerim obsecutus, quam vo66 bis videbitur æquum esse.

Odiosum hoc est sæpe suspicari : Attamen, ut mea opinio fert, in tempore et loco necessarium 66 atque utile. Ut enim in obscurissimis quæstionibus primum " hoc est, suspicari, ita, si nihil proficiamus amplius, extare et " cognosci suspiciones nostras convenit, quibus fortassis alii oc6 casio præbeatur, aut hoc ipsum, aut novum et diversum iter 66 sibi muniendi, quo proxime ad veritatem perveniatur.”+

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

The author of the article now referred to informs us, that the philologers of Germany have lately begun to direct their attention to the languages of India. He, in particular, speaks in terms of high praise of an Essay on the Language and Philosophy of the Indians, by the celebrated Mr. Frederick Schlegel. Of this I know nothing, but from the very general account of its object and results given by Madame de Staël, in her work, De l'Allemagne. See Tome 3me, p. 119.

* Gibbon's History, Vol. VII. p. 294.
† Bayeri Historia Regni Græcorum Bactriani. Petropoli, 1738.

Before I proceed to say any thing of the Sanscrit, it may be proper to recal to the memory of the reader some facts, for which we have the evidence of history, concerning the ancient intercourse between the Greek colony of Bactriana and the inhabitants of Hindoostan.

It is universally known,* that, after the conquests of Alexander in Asia, it was one great object of his policy to secure the possession of his new empire by incorporating and assimilating, as far as possible, his Asiatic and his European subjects. With this view we find him, soon after the victory at Arbela, assuming, along with many of his officers, the Persian dress, and adopting several of the customs of the conquered people. On the other hand, he encouraged the Persian nobles to learn the Greek language, and to cultivate a taste for Greek literature. We find him, in prosecution of the same design, not only marrying one of the daughters of Darius, but choosing wives for a hundred of his principal officers in the most illustrious Persian families. The example was so eagerly followed by the lower ranks, that, we are told, above ten thosuand Macedonians married Persian women, and received marriage.gifts from Alexander, as a mark of his approbation.

It is not to be doubted, even although we had no direct evidence of the fact, that he followed the same policy in his Indian dominions ; but he was soon interrupted in the execution of his plans by the mutinous spirit of his soldiers, and almost immediately afterwards by his untimely death. +

The measures, however, which he had taken for the security of his conquests had been so well concerted, that India quietly submitted to Pytho, the son of Agenor, and afterwards to Seleucus, who successively obtained dominion over that part of Asia. During the reign of the latter, which terminated fortytwo years after Alexander's death, the Macedonian power and possessions in India remained unimpaired.

After the death of Seleucus, the Syrian monarchs seem to

* Dr. Robertson's Disquisition concerning Ancient India, p. 24. et seq. edit. of 1791. The reader will find Dr. Robertson's authorities carefully quoted at the foot of each page.

7" Alexander was so intent on rendering this union of his subjects complete, " that, after his death, there was found in his tablets or commentaries (among “ other magnificent schemes which he meditated) a resolution to build several “ new cities, some in Asia and some in Europe, and to people those in Asia with “ Europeans, and those in Europe with Asiatics,' that, (says the historian,) by “ intermarriages and exchange of good offices, the inhabitants of these two great “ continents might be gradually moulded into a similarity of sentiments, and be« come attached to each other with mutual affection.'"-Diod. Sicul. lib. xviii. c. 4-Robertson's Disquisition concerning Ancient India, p. 191.

have lost their Indian possessions. But the Greeks continued to maintain an intercourse with India, and even to extend their dominions in that quarter. This intercourse was carried on from the kingdom of Bactriana, originally subject to Seleucus, but wrested from his son or grandson about sixty-nine years after the death of Alexander, and erected into an independent state. From the very imperfect gleanings which we are able to collect on this subject from ancient authors, we learn that the commerce of Bactriana with India was great ; that they penetrated far into the interior ; and that the conquests of its kings in that country were more extensive than those of Alexander himself. From the researches of M. de Guignes into the Chinese historians, it farther appears, that this kingdom of Bactriana subsisted nearly one hundred and thirty years, when it was 'overwhelmed by a horde of Tartars about one hundred and twenty-six years before the Christian æra.

If these facts be duly weighed, the conjecture of Meiners will not perhaps appear extravagant, that it was in consequence of this intercourse between Greece and India, arising from Alexander's conquests, that the Bramins were led to invent their sacred language. * “For unless" (he observes) " they had chosen to adopt at once a foreign tongue,” (against which obvious and insurmountable objections must have presented themselves,) " it was necessary for them to invent a * new language, by means of which they might express their " newly acquired ideas, and, at the same time, conceal from " the other Indian castes their philosophical doctrines, when “ they were at variance with the commonly received opin" ions." I cannot, however, agree with Meiners, in thinking that this task would be so arduous as to require the labour of many successive generations, * for with the Greek language before them as a model, and their own language as their principal raw material, where would be the difficulty of manufacturing a different idiom, borrowing from the Greek the same, or nearly the same system, in the flexions of nouns and conjugations of verbs, and thus disguising, by new terminations and a new syntax, their native dialect ? If Psalmanazar was able to create, without any assistance, a language, of which not a single word had a previous existence but in his own fancy, it does not seem a very bold hypothesis, that an order of men, amply supplied with a stock of words applicable to all matters connected with the common business of life, might, without much expense of time and ingenuity, bring to a systematic perfection an artificial language of their own, having for their guide the richest and most regular tongue that was ever spoken on earth ;-a tongue, too, abounding in whatever abstract and technical words their vernacular speech was incompetent to furnish.

* Meiners is not the only writer who has suspected the Sanscrit to be an inven. tion of the Indian priesthood. Colonel Dow, in his “ Dissertation concerning the “ Customs, Manners, Language, Religion, and Philosophy of the Hindoos,” is the first English writer who has expressed this opinion with confidence. “ Whether “ the Shanscrita,” he observes, “ was in any period of antiquity the vulgar lan

guage of Hindostan, or was invented by the Brahmans to be a mysterious re“ pository for their religion and philosophy, is difficult to determine. All other

languages, it is true, were casually invented by mankind to express their ideas “and wants ; but the astonishing formation of the Shanscrita seems to be beyond “ the power of chance. In regularity of etymology and grammatical order, it far “ exceeds the Arabic. It, in short, bears evident marks that it has been fixed

upon rational principles, by a body of learned men, who studied regularity, “ harmony, and a wonderful simplicity and energy of expression.

“ Though the Shanscrita is amazingly copious, a very small grammar and vo“ eabulary serve to illustrate the principles of the whole. In a treatise of a few “ pages, the roots and primitives are all comprehended, and so uniform are the s rules for derivations and inflections, that the etymon of any word is with facili.

ty at once investigated. The pronunciation is the greatest difficulty that attends “ the acquirement of the language to perfection. This is so quick and forcible, “ that a person, even before the years of puberty, must labour a long time “ before he can pronounce it with propriety ; but when once the pronuncia“ tion is attained to perfection, it strikes the ear with amazing boldness and harmony."

."-Page 30 of the Dissertation prefixed to the History of Hindostan from the Earliest Accounts of Time to the Death of Akbar. Translated from the Per. gian of Ferishta. London, 1767.

Something not altogether unlike this seems to have taken place in the Roman Catholic monasteries, in which a smattering of Latin, (the language of the church) formed a necessary part of the education of a priest ; and in which it may, without any breach of charity, be presumed, that the clergy found it occasionally convenient to conceal their conversations with

I shall transcribe as much from Meiners as will be sufficient to give a general idea of his views on this subject; premising only, that, in transcribing the first paragraph, which is here introduced merely for the sake of connexion, I would not be understood to give any countenance to the author's conjecture about the individual (Budda or Butta) who he supposes to have been instrumental in incorporating the Greek philosophy with the Indian superstitions.

“ Hic Butta sive Budda vel omnium primus, vel inter primos saltem fuisse " videtur, qui Græcorum placita cum antiquis Brachmanum superstitionibus et *i vivendi ratione copulaverit.

“ Huic meæ conjecturæ alteram adjicio, ex hujus nempe aliorumque virorum, " qui eâdem fere tempestate ad externa studia sese applicuerunt, institutionibus, “ ingentes sine dubio discipulorum catervas prodiisse, quorum opera et junctis “ viribus præclara illa et toties laudata antiqua Brachmanum lingua inventa sit. “ Nisi enim semper peregrino sermone uti volebant ; de nova ipsis lingua cogi"tandum erat, qua novas res, atque incognitas hactenus notiones exprimere, si"mulque doctrinas suas cum patriâ religione pugnantes ceteros Indorum ordines “ celare poterant. Ejusmodi vero linguæ inventio adeo arduum atque difficile negotium esse mihi videtur, ut illud non nisi multis hominum ætatatibus perfici potuisse existimem.--Meiners, Historia Doctrinæ de Vero Deo, Lemgoviæ, 1780, pp. 134, 135.

« PredošláPokračovať »