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slight knowledge of its syntax, nothing more was necessary for their instruction in Sanscrit, but a few examples of the mode of combining Greek with their vernacular tongues. We have reason to believe that a knowledge of Greek was spread over India not long after the period in question. Of this various proofs might be given ; * but I shall only mention here a single fact recorded by Strabo, that, in the reign of Augustus, ambassadors from an Indian Prince arrived at Rome, charged with various presents to the Emperor, together with a letter in the Greek language, written by the Prince himselft Strabo mentions this on the authority of Nicolaus Damascenus, who himself conversed with the ambassadors at Antioch on their way to Rome, and saw the presents of which they were the bearers.
To these considerations we may add, that, as the learned language in use among the priests must necessarily have mingled itself more or less with their vernacular tongues, we may every where expect to find, more especially in abstract and scientific words, Sanscrit incorporated with the different dialects spoken in different parts of India. It is not, therefore, wonderful, that Mr. Wilkins should assert, that “he who knows Sanscrit has already acquired a knowledge of one half of almost every vernacular language in India, while he who remains ignorant of it, can never possess a perfect and critical understanding of
any, though he
* See Bayeri Historia Regni Græcorum Bactriani, XLIV. XLV.
† ( -Επιστολήν Ελληνικήν εν διφθέρα γεγραμμένην, δηλούσαν ότι Πώρος είη ygázas, iga xodim Beniniw ägxw.—Strabo, lib. xv. p. 1047, ed. Almel. (Among these presents Strabo particularly mentions some large vipers and serpents, and a young man without arins. The same fact is recorded by Dio Cassius, who compares the young man to a Hermes, ( colous toùs 'Egiãs ópwpesy.—Dio Cassius, lib. liv. p. 527, ed. 1607,) and adds, “ That by means of his feet he bent a bow, discharged arrows, and sounded a trumpet.” The latter historian seems to doubt the possibility of this, but in the present times, when numerous well attested instances have occurred of persons who, in the same mutilated condition, have supplied the want of hands by means of the foot, this very circumstance becomes the strongest of all presumptions in favor of the other less extraordinary details which form part of the same narrative. The embassy of the Indians to Augustus is noticed also by Suetonius and Florus.Suetonii Cæsar Octavian. August. xxi. Flori Epitome, lib. iv. cap. xii.
“ The language of Greece was early cultivated in the East. Before the æra of Mahommed it was considered as a branch of polite, and even of mercantile education ; Greek slaves were common in Arabia. The receipts and disbursements of the treasury of the Khalifs were written in that tongne for several generations aster the prophet's death."- Richardson's Dissertation on the Languages, 8c. of the Eastern Nations.
a certain proficiency in the practical use of them. The several dialects confounded under the common terms Hindi, Hindavi, Hindostani, and Basha, deprived of Sanscrit, would not only lose all their beauty and energy, but, with respect to the power of expressing abstract ideas, or terms of science, would be absolutely reduced to a state of barbarism.” *
Suppose a Roman scholar of the Augustan age (Cicero, for example, or Varro,) to be miraculously recalled to life in modern Scotland, and to retain all the knowledge and all the habits of thinking which he had acquired during his former existence :Suppose farther, that, after residing some years in the country, he had acquired such a smattering of broad Scotch as is commonly possessed of Eastern languages by European adventurers in that part of the world : Should the Polemo-Middinia be put into the hands of the Roman scholar as an ancient composition, by some Scotsman who was disposed to amuse himself with his credulity, (following the example of those Bramins who practised on the easy faith of Major Wilford,t) what a fund of speculation would be suggested to him by this strange medley of two languages so different! Was the Scotch grafted on the Latin, or the Latin on the Scotch? The preponderance of Scotch roots in the staple of the dialect might incline him to the one opinion, while the universal prevalence of the Roman inflections, and of the Roman forms of syntax, would probably decide him in favor of the other; more especially when he was told how very long his countrymen were in actual possession of this island. The harmony of the verse, so superior to that of Ennius, and even to that of a great part of Lucretius, (and, in truth, resembling occasionally the
Grammar of the Sanskrita Language, by Charles Wilkins, LL. D. and F. R. S. Preface, pp. 10, 11.
The learned author of Ancient Metaphysics, after acknowledging his great obligations to Mr. Wilkins for his information concerning the Sanscrit, adds," I have collected, from some other travellers in India, Shanscrit words that are clearly Greek, such as gonia, the Shanscrit word for an angle, kentra for a centre ; and they use the word hora in the same sense that it is used in Latin.” Anc. Metaph. Vol. IV. p. 330. The information is curious, and would have been important, if it had rested upon the authority of Mr. Wilkins.
† See Appendix I. to this Section.
numbers of Virgil,) would, however, add much to the difficulty of the problem. Perhaps it might occur to him, as a still more reasonable hypothesis, that this jargon was the relic of some language now extinct, which was formerly spoken both at Rome and at Edinburgh ; nor would there be wanting arguments to justify the conjecture, that it was once the universal dialect of Europe, and that it forms the basis of all the different European tongues. The intermixture of Gothic words in the Law Latin of most of the European nations, and, still more, the varieties in the Kitchen-Latin of the monasteries, ever changing with the vernacular speech of different countries, would probably come powerfully in aid of some of these theories.
On this singular performance, (the Polemo-Middinia,) it
may not be altogether useless to remark, that while it is readily understood by every Scotsman who has learnt the rudiments of Latin, it is quite as unintelligible to those who are ignorant of that language, as a passage in Virgil or Horace. In proof of this, I shall transcribe a few lines from the beginning and end of the poem.
“ Nymphæ, quæ colitis highissima monta Fifæa,
Sive vos Pittenwema tenent, seu Crelia Crofta,
Quid multa ?-Sic fraya fuit, sic guisa peracta est,
Una nec interea spillata est droppa cruoris.” Why may not some analogous jargon, formed by a skilful medley of Greek with the vernacular tongues of India, have given birth, in the first instance, to the Sanscrit? It would evidently (even in its rudest state) have answered all the purposes which the priesthood could have in view in contriving a learned and sacred language ; while its subsequent refinements, when adopted in the compositions of poets and philosophers, and when it was become an object of study to grammarians and philologers, may have gradually brought it, in the course of ages, to that state of perfection which it is said to possess. The progress would not be more wonderful tħan that of the French tongue from the phraseology of the treaty between Charles le Chauve and Louis
le Germanique, to that of Voltaire and Buffon ;-than the progress of English from King Alfred's paraphrase of Boethius, to the Spectators of Mr. Addison ;—or that of Latin from the style of the Twelve Tables to the compositions of Cicero and of Virgil.*
May I be allowed to conjecture farther, that the Sanscrit was not formed in consequence of any deep and systematical design, but began in a sort of slang, or Gypsey jargon, (a sort of kitchen Greek) in which the priests conversed with one another on topics not fit for profane ears? The convenience they experienced in the use of this, would naturally suggest the employment of it in their written communications, and would gradually lead to its cultivation on grammatical principles.
Nor let the initiated few into the mysteries of this so much vaunted language indignantly reject the foregoing hypothesis, from an idea that it tends to throw an air of ridicule over its origin. My own impression is completely the reverse. For is it not a nobler pedigree to be traced to an oral cipher (if I may use the expression) invented by the Gymnosophists of India, than to claim a descent from the gabble of some savage horde; or, as is the case with some of the most polished languages of modern Europe, to the intercourse produced by conquests between Roman soldiers and Gothic barbarians? Is not the mode in which I have supposed
* In offering this conjecture, I would not be understood to limit my supposition to a combination of two languages precisely similar to that adopted by Drummond. Others may be imagined, which would be equally effectual for answering the ends which the priesthood had in view ; but I can think of none that corresponds so well with what we are told of the regular structure of the Sanscrit, and of its systematical resemblance, in various particulars, to Greek. A very curious account is given by. Sir William Jones of the manner in which the Arabic tongue is combined with the Persian ; but such a mode of combination is evidently inferior in every respect, for the purposes to which I have supposed the Sanscrit to be subservient, to that exemplified in the Kitchen-Latin of the Catholic monasteries.
“The Arabic tongue is blended with the Persian in so singular a manner, that one period often contains both languages, wholly distinct from each other in expression and idiom, but perfectly united in sense and construction. This must appear strange to an European reader; but he may form some idea of this uncommon mixture, when he is told that the two Asiatic languages are not always mixed, like the words of Roman and of Saxon origin, in the following sentence of Cicero, as translated by Dr. Middleton :— The true law is right reason, conformable to the nature of things, which calls us to duty by commanding, deters us from sin by forbidding ;' but, as we may suppose, the Latin and English to be connected in the following period :• The true lex is recta ratio, conformable nature, which by commanding vocet ad officium, by forbidding a fraude deterreat." ""-Works of Sir William Jones, Vol. II. pp. 131, 132.
Sanscrit to be formed, (considering the materials which entered into its composition,) incomparably more likely to have given rise to a regular and refined language, than the combination of accidents which has given birth to every other tongue spoken upon earth!
It is by no means improbable, that this conjecture, as well as the various others which my predecessors have offered with respect to the Sanscrit, may be no less wide of the truth, than the speculations which I have ascribed to the Roman scholar concerning the PolemoMiddinia. But of these conjectures there are some which we may, I think, confidently reject, from the absolute impossibility of the suppositions they involve ; and, in this way, we may, perhaps, in time, gain a few steps towards the truth, by following what mathematicians call the method of exclusions.
Of the conjectures here alluded to, that which seems most generally sanctioned among Oriental scholars, seems to me the most manifestly untenable. According to this, we are led to suppose, that the Sanscrit was, at some former period, spoken over a great part of the East, and that it still forms the basis of all the various dialects which exist there at this day.
“ The grand source of Indian Literature,” says Mr. Halhed, "the parent of almost every dialect from the Persian Gulf to the China Seas, is the Shanscrit, a language of the most venerable and unfathomable antiquity, which, although at present shut up in the libraries of the Bramins, and appropriated solely to the records of their religion, appears to have been current over most part of the Oriental world ; and traces of its original extent may still be discovered in almost every district of
Mr. Colebrooke is equally decisive, and still more precise in his statement. “ The Sanscrit,” he tells us, “evidently draws its origin from a primæval tongue, which was gradually refined in various climates, and became Sanscrit in India, Pahlavi in Persia, and Greek on the shores of the Mediterranean.
It is now be
* * * *
* Preface to Halhed's Grammar of the Bengal Language.