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tion should be explained. It appears that he was an eminent poet, and one of nine who were called the gems of the court of Vicramaditya. Unfortunately, Amera held the tenets of a heterodox sect; and his poems are said to have perished in the persecutions fomented by intolerant philosophers* against the persons and writings of both the Jainas and Bauddhas."+
We understand that most of the alphabets of India, though they differ in the shape of their letters, agree in their numbers, powers, and systematical disposition, and are capable of expressing the Sanscrit as well as their own particular language; but the ancient writings, we believe, are chiefly in the character called Déva-nagari, so named by way of pre-eminence.‡
* Instead of philosophers we presume priests are
+ See a farther account of this circumstance, in a note to Asiat. Res. vol. vii. p. 214.
See Catalogue of Sanscrit manuscripts presented to the Royal Society of London. (Sir W. Jones's Works, vol. xiii. p. 401, and seq.) The reader, on referring to
It affords much curious reflection, when we consider that the Sanscrit language must have existed in the copious and refined state that has been described, at a period so very remote from us. The nice and intimate knowledge which Sir William Jones possessed of the Greek and Latin languages and literature, is universally allowed by those who knew him, and who were competent to judge of the subject. His knowledge and taste as a scholar, were celebrated at Oxford, even in the early part of
that catalogue, may obtain much curious information. Examples will be found of several species of Indian literature. The manuscript No. 50, intituled Hasyarnava, or the sea of laughter, is a farce, by a poet named Jagadiswara: it is, says Jones, a bitter satire on kings and their servants, and on priests, who are represented as vicious hypocrites. To have written thus freely upon such very nice subjects, and especially to produce them on the stage, announces a degree of toleration that we should not have expected to have met with.—In a note on a poem in the Devanagari character, entitled Vrihatcatha, by an author named Somadeva, Sir Wm. Jones observes: "This poet resembles Ariosto, but even surpasses him in eloquence."
his life. We have had occasion to observe, that the Sanscrit language had become as easy and familiar to him as either of the two other languages we have here mentioned; and, when speaking of the Sanscrit, he observes, Whatever be its antiquity, it is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a strong affinity both in the roots of verbs, and in the forms of grammar."--In his preface to the translation of the Sanscrit drama, named Sacontala, or the Fatal Ring, by the poet Calidasa, he further remarks: "I began with translating it verbally into Latin, which bears so great resemblance to the Sanscrit, that it is more convenient than any other modern language for a scrupulous interlineary version, I then turned it into English.
Mr. Halhed, in his preface to his translation of the Code of Hindu Laws, observes that the Sanscrit is at the same time copious and nervous, that it far exceeds the
Greek and Arabic in the regularity of its etymology, and that the style of the best authors in it, is wonderfully concise. And in the preface to his Grammar of the Bengal language, published in 1778, he adds: "The grand source of Indian literature, the parent of almost every dialect, from the Persian gulph to the China seas, is the Sanscrit; a language of the most venerable and unfathomable antiquity; which, although at present shut up in the libraries of Brahmins, and appropriated solely to the records of their religion, appears to have been current over most of the oriental world; and traces of its original extent may still be discovered in almost every district of Asia. I have been astonished to find the similitude of Sanscrit words with those of Persian and Arabic, and even of Latin and Greek and these not in technical and metaphorical terms, which the mutuation of refined arts and improved manners might have occasionally introduced; but in the main ground-work of language, in monosyllables, in the names of numbers, and the
appellations of such things as would be first discriminated on the immediate dawn of civilization. The resemblance which may be observed in the characters upon the medals and signets of various districts of Asia, the light which they reciprocally reflect upon each other, and the general analogy which they all bear to the same grand prototype, afford another ample field for curiosity. The coins of Assam, Nepaul, Cashmire, and many other kingdoms, are all stamped with Sanscrit letters, and mostly contain allusions to the old Sanscrit mythology: the same conformity I have observed on the impressions of seals from Boutan and Tibet. A collateral inference may likewise be deduced from the peculiar arrangement of the Sanscrit alphabet, so very different from that of any other quar
* What Mr. Halhed observes, in regard to coins, does not ascertain the antiquity of money in Asia; coins may undoubtedly be found with Sanscrit inscriptions on them, and now intitled to be called ancient, though probably of dates subsequent to the first use of money with the Greeks.