Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

direction of their priests; and they promised their good offices to obtain aid from the French monarch for his undertaking. But the action of the court was too slow for the ardor of youth and genius, and as he was without pecuniary means of his own, he determined to enlist in the army of the French East India Company, and in that way reach the scene of his intended labors. In vain were all the remonstrances of family and friends, and even of the military authorities; the inflexibility of his will and the smallness of his wants kept him steadfast in purpose, and he entered upon his journey as a common soldier. He has himself related in detail the great difficulties of this undertaking. The horrors of pestilence in mid ocean, the diseases incident to a torrid climate on land, the fatigues of camp life, want of money, ignorance of the languages of the East, long journeys, unattended, through regions never before traversed by a European, and the existence of a war between England and France, which cost the latter all her Indian colonies — these were but a part of the obstacles to be encountered, The French officials very generally treated him as a visionary and a bore; and the Orientals, quick to gain such knowledge, slighted with impunity one who had not even the respect of his own countrymen. Having made some progress in acquiring the Tamul and Modern Persian languages, he reached Surat, the scene of his researches, in May, 1758; but the Parsee destours, or priests, whom he had hired for the purpose, were extremely chary with their sacred books and languages, and far from being either faithful or competent instructors. They counted on wearing out his patience, without imparting the knowledge he de sired. The only means for overcoming their reluctance was larger rewards; and all his labors and sacrifices would probably have been unavailing, had not a few liberal individuals contributed further pecuniary aid. These labors were continued at Surat for two years and four months, in the course of which he collected over one hundred and eighty manuscripts in various languages.11 The collection, which is still preserved in the imperial library at Paris, included all the extant books attributed by the Parsees to Zoroaster in the Zend and Pehlevi languages -- of which more hereafter — and several later books in the Huzvaresh, or Pehlevi lan

11 Anquetil Zendavesta Discours Preliminaire, 429.

The necessary

guage, the principal of which was the Boundehesh, a work of cosmogony of the era of the Sassanidae. With the assistance of the Parsee destours, he made a French translation of all these books, none of which had ever before appeared in any European tongue. He also obtained a Glossary of seven hundred and forty Zend words expressed in Huzvaresh, to which he added the French equivalents, and a similar list of eight hundred and sixty-six words of Huzvaresh rendered in modern Persian, which he further translated into French. The second of these embryo Dictionaries was then four hundred years old ; the antiquity of the other, though not stated, was probably still greater. He moreover studied minutely the customs, opinions and rites of the modern Parsees. In November, 1761, Anquetil du Perron arrived again in Europe, after an absence of seven years; but instead of returning first to France, he

proceeded directly to England, to compare his recent acquisitions with the manuscripts at Oxford. permission was only obtained with difficulty, on account of the hostilities between England and France, but the inflexible perseverance of Anquetil overcame that obstacle also. After satisfying himself that the Oxford manuscripts contained nothing different from his own, he returned to Paris and spent the succeeding ten years in part in preparing his accumulated materials for publication. In 1771, he gave to the world his great work, entitled “Zend-avesta, ouvrage de Zoroastre, fc. Traduit en François sur l'original Zend, avec des remarques, et accompagné de plusieurs traités propres à éclaircir les matières qui en sont l'objet, par M. Anquetil du Perron. 2 vols. 4to," "The first volume is divided into two parts, of which the first is occupied with a narrative of the author's travels and labors, the other with a life of Zoroaster and the three principal books of the Avesta. The second volume contains some minor fragments, the Boundehesh and later pieces, the two vocabularies, and two dissertations on the theology and ceremonies of the Parsees. This translation was received in Europe with great interest, but elicited the most conflicting judgments. It was received by some with enthusiasm, by others with contempt. In England, Sir William Jones, then a very young man, and Richardson, the author of the Persian Dictionary, and A. W. Schlegel, Meiners, of Göttingen, Tychsen and others in

Germany, denied the genuineness of the originals, and contended that Anquetil had allowed the Parsee destours to impose upon him fabrications without coherence or common sense for the works of Zoroaster. In the meantime, J. F. Kleuker, in 1777, translated Anquetil's work into German, and answered at length the various objections made to it. Four years later he published in three volumes quarto his Anhang zum Zend-avesta, made up of various dissertations by himself, Anquetil du Perron and the Abbé Foucher, illustrating the whole circle of the history, language and religion of the Medes and Persians. The study of the subject had now again been carried as far as the means of that age rendered possible; and had to be postponed for another half century to await developements in Comparative Philology larger and more important than the most sagacious had yet dreamed of.

Among the most important discoveries growing out of the intercourse of modern Europe with India was that of a peculiar and very copious literature, composed chiefly in an ancient language - the Sanscrit — no longer a spoken tongue, but preserved for the uses of the priestly caste and the learned." This venerable language was found to be the mother tongue from which were derived all the spoken dialects of the Hindoo race, and to be one of the most copious and flexible forms of human speech, even rivalling the Greek in the perfection of its developement. It was also found to present frequent and startling coincidences with the European languages - coincidences which could only be explained by supposing a common origin. This fact is well stated in the following words of Prof. Max Müller:

"At the first dawn of traditional history, we see these Arian tribes migrating across the snow of the Himalaya, southward toward the Seven Rivers, (the Indus, the five rivers of the Penjab and the Sarasvati,) and ever since, India has been called their home. That before this time they had been living in more northern regions, within the same precincts with the ancestors of the Greeks, the Italians, Slavonians, Germans and Celts, is a fact as firmly established as that the Normans of William the Conqueror were the Northmen of Scandinavia. The evidence of language is irrefragable, and it is the only evidence worth listening to with regard to ante-historical periods. It would have been next to impossible to discover any traces of relationship between the swarthy natives of India and their conquerors, whether Alexander or Clive, but for the testimony borne by language. What other evidence could have reached back to times when Greece was not yet peopled by Greeks, nor India by Hindus? Yet these are the times of which we are speaking. What authority would have been strong enough to persuade the Grecian army that their gods and their hero ancestors were the same as those of King Porus, or to convince the English soldier that the same blood was running in his veins and in the veins of the dark Bengalese? And yet there is not an English jury now-a-days, which, after examining the hoary documents of language, would reject the claim of a common descent and a legitimate relationship between Hindu, Greek, and Teuton. Many words still live in India and in England, that have witnessed the first separation of the northern and southern Arians, and these are witnesses not to be shaken by any cross-examination. The terms for God, for house, for father, mother, son, daughter, for dog and cow, for heart and tears, for axe and tree, identical in all the IndoEuropean idioms, are like the watchwords of soldiers. We challenge the seeming stranger; and whether he answer with the lips of a Greek, a German, or an Indian, we recognize him as one of ourselves. Though the historian may shake his head, though the physiologist may doubt, and the poet scorn the idea, all must yield before the facts furnished by language. There was a time when the ancestors of the Celts, the Germans, the Slavonians, the Greeks and Italians, the Persians and Hindus, were living together beneath the same roof, separate from the ancestors of the Semitic and Turanian races." 12

The analogies of Sanscrit were found to relate not merely to the origin of single words, but equally to the whole inflexional system of the western languages, and was every day casting new light on the anomalies and dislocations of European grammar. Sir William Jones was one of the first to cultivate the study of the Sanscrit, and call the attention of the learned to its importance; but it was Frederic Schlegel, who, in 1808, in his “ Essay on the Languages and Philosophy of the Hindoos,” might be said to lay the foundations of Modern Philology, by showing the intimate historical connection between the Sanscrit, Persian, Greek, Roman and German languages. His idea was taken up and carried forward by his most worthy successor, Rasmus Rask, a young Dane of genius. Having trained himself to

12 Bunsen Philosophy of Universal History, 1-129.

expertness by researches into the origin of the Scandinavian languages, he set out in 1816 “upon the great Asiatic journey after which his mind had been yearning from childhood. From Petersburg he penetrated into the interior of Asia, as far as India, studying philologically on his way, and learning to speak the principal languages, and fixed at last on the Zend and the sacred books of the Parsees in Bombay. Returning with his treasures in 1821, he prepared a general classification of what we now call the Turanian and Iranian languages; but a premature death carried him away before he could realize his magnificent plan.13 It is to Rask that Europe is indebted for the first real grammatical knowledge of the Zend, or language of Persia, before the conquest of Alexander. In his treatise “ On the age and authority of the Zend language and the Zend-Avesta,” published in 1826, he rectified the value of the written characters, gave three of the most important declensions, and pointed out the errors into which Anquetil necessarily fell by following implicitly Parsee teachers, ignorant of Žend grammar. 14 The next in the order of time was Eugene Burnouf, to whom we owe the first edition of tlie Zend texts, the critical restitution of the manuscripts, the outlines of a Zend grammar, and the translation and philological anatomy of considerable portions of the Zoroastrian writings. He was the real founder of Zend philology. His principal and very profound work, the "Commentaire sur le Yaçna," was published in 1835. The half poetic ideal sketched by Frederic Schlegel, was developed into a grand and beautiful system by Francis Bopp, in his “ Comparative Grammar of the Sanscrit, Zend, Greek, Latin, Lithuanian, Old Sclavonic, Gothic and German,” published in six sections, between 1833 and 1852. This great work has so established the landmarks of this important and wide spread family of languages, that any essential change in their relations is no longer to be expected.

There is another source of knowledge for ancient history, too important to be passed without a word of explanation. The old Asiatic peoples had a habit that contrasts strangely with our ephemeral institutions. They wrote their laws and their histories on stone. They erected monuments and covered them with sculptures and narratives. They decorated

13 Bunsen, 1-56. 14 Bopp's Comparative Grammar: Introduction.

« AnteriorContinuar »