Page images





NEARLY at the time, when the refult of my first inquiries concerning fpikenard was published in the second volume of our Afiatick Refearches, there appeared in the Philofophical Tranfactions an account of the ANDROPOGON waráncufa, the fpecimen of which Dr. BLANE had received from Lucnow, and which he supposes to be the true Indick nard of DIOSCORIDES and GALEN: having more than once read his arguments with pleasure, but not with conviction, I feel it incumbent on me, to state my reafons for diffenting from the learned phyfician with all the freedom of a fearcher for truth, but without any diminution of that respect, to which his knowledge and candour justly entitle him.

In the first place, there is a passage in Dr. BLANE's paper, which I could not but read with surprise; not because it is erroneous or difputable (for nothing can be more certain) but because it is decifive against the very proposition, which the writer endeavours to fupport: "DIOS"CORIDES mentions the Syriack nard, fays the doctor, as a species "different

"different from the Indian, which was certainly brought from fome of the "remote parts of India; for both he and GALEN, by way of fixing "more precifely the country, whence it came, call it alfo Gagnites." We may add, that PTOLEMY, who, though not a profeffed naturalist, had opportunities in Egypt of converfing with Indian merchants on every thing remarkable in this country, diftinguishes Rangamati, as producing the true fpikenard; and it is from the borders of that very district, if we believe modern Indians, that the people of Butan bring it yearly into Bengal (a). Now it is not contended, that the new fpecies of Andropogon (if it be a new fpecies) may be the Indick nard of DIOSCORIDES, (b), because it was found by Mr. BLANE in a remote part of India (for that folitary fact would have proved nothing); but it is learnedly and elaborately urged, that it must be the true Indian fpikenard, because it differs only in the length of the ftalks from the nard of GARÇIAS, which, according to Him, is the only fpecies of nardus exported from India, and which refembles a dried fpecimen seen by RUMPHIUS, and brought, he says, among other countries, from Mackran, or the ancient Gadrofia, the very country, where, according to ARRIAN, the true nard grew in abundance; for "the "Phenicians, he says, collected a plentiful store of it, and so much of "it was trampled under foot by the army, that a strong perfume


was diffused on all fides of them;" now there is a fingular coincidence of circumftances; for our Andropogon was discovered by the scent of its roots, when they were crushed by the horses and elephants

(a) PTOLE'ME'E diftingue le canton de Rhandamarcotta, en ce qu'il fournit la plante, que nous appellons Spic nard, ce qui peut convenir à Rangamati; et des differentes espéces l'Indique est bien la plus eftimée.

D'ANV. Antiq. Geogr. Ind. 81.

(b) Dr. ROXBURGH with great reafon fuppofes it to be the Muricated ANDROPOGON of KOENIG, who mentions the roots as odoriferous, when fprinkled with water.

See RETZ. III. Fafcic. 43. and v. 21.


in a hunting-party of the Vazir A'sUFUDDAULAH; fo that, on the whole, it must be the fame with the plant mentioned by ARRIAN: but it may be argued, I think, more conclufively, that a plant, growing with great luxuriance in Gadrofia, or Mackran, which the doctor admits to be a maritime province of Perfia, could not poffibly be the fame with a plant confined to remote parts of India; fo that, if GARCIAS, RUMPHIUS, and ARRIAN be fuppofed to have meant the fame fpecies of nard, it was evidently different from that of DIOSCORIDES and GALEN. The respectable writer, with whofe opinions I make fo free, but from no other motive than a love of truth, feems aware of a little geographical difficulty from the western pofition of Macrán; for he, first, makes it extend to the river Indus, and then infers, from the long march westward and the diftreffes of ALEXANDER's army, fubfequent to the discovery of the spikenard, that it must have grown in the more eaftern part of the defert, and confequently on the very borders of India; but, even if we allow Gedrofia, or Gadrofis, to have been the same tract of land with Macrán (though the limits of all the provinces in Perfia have been confiderably changed), yet the frontier of India could never with any propriety be carried fo far to the weft; for not only the Orita and Arabitæ, but, according to MELA, the whole province of Ariana, were between Gadrofis and the Indus; and, though Macrán (for fo the word fhould be written) may have been annexed to India by fuch whimsical geographers as the Turks, who give the name of white Indians to the Perfians of Arachofia, and of yellow Indians to the Arabs of Yemen, yet the river Indus, with the countries of Sind and Múltán on both fides of it, has ever been confidered by the Perfians and Arabs as the western limit of Hind or India; and ARRIAN himself expressly names the Indus as its known boundary: let Gadrofis, however, be Macrán, and let Macrán be an Indian province, yet it could never have been a remote part of India in refpect of Europe or Egypt, and, confequently, was not meant by GALEN and Dios




CORIDES, when they defcribed the true fpikenard. It must be admitted, that, if the Siree of RUMPHIUS, which differs little from the nardus of GARÇIAS, which correfponds for the most part with the new Andropogon, was ever brought from the province of Macrán, they were all three probably the fame plant with the nard of Arrian; but, unfortunately, RUMPHIUS thought of no country less than of Perfia, and of no province lefs than of Macrán; for he writes very diftinctly, both in his Latin and his Dutch columns, that the plant in question grows in Macian, which he well knew to be one of the Moluccas (c): I am far from intending to give pain by detecting this trifling mistake; and, as I may have made many of greater confequence, I fhall be truly obliged to any man, who will fet me right with good manners, the facred laws of which ought never to be violated in a literary debate, except when fome petulant aggreffor has forfeited all claim to respect.

ARRIAN himself can by no means be understood to affert, that the Indian fpikenard grew in Perfia; for his words are a fragrant root of nard (d), where the omiffion of the definite articles implies rather a nard, than the nard, or the most celebrated species of it; and it seems very clear, that the Greeks used that foreign word generically for odoriferous plants of different natural orders: but ARRIAN in truth was a mere compiler; and his credit, even as a civil hiftorian, seems liable to so much doubt, that it cannot be safe to rely on him for any fact in the history of nature. "We cannot, says the judicious and "accurate STRABO, give eafy credence to the generality even of contemporary writers concerning ALEXANDER, whofe fame was


(c) Hi flores fæpe, immo vulgo fere, obfervantur in vetuftis Siree ftipitibus, qui in Ternata, Motira, et Mackian crefcunt. Vol. 5. Lib. 8. Cap. 24. p. 182.

(1) Νάρδα ρίζαν εὔοσμον.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]


astonishingly high, and whofe historians, preferring wonders to truth, "wrote with secure negligence; well knowing, that, as the farthest "limits of Afia were the scene of his actions, their affertions could hardly be difproved." Now ARRIAN'S principal authority was ARISTOBULUS of Caffandra, whofe writings were little prized by the ancients, and who not only afferted, "that Gadrofis produced very tall myrrh-trees, with the gum of which the Phenicians loaded many “beasts” (notwithstanding the slaughter of them from the distress of the whole army), but, with the fancy of a poet describing the nest of a phenix, placed myrrh, incenfe, and caffia, with cinnamon and Spikenard itself, even in the wilds of Arabia: "The fruitfulness of Arabia,” fays ARRIAN, tempted the king of Macedon to form a defign of invading it; for he had been affured, that myrrh and frankincense were collected from the trees of that country; that cinnamon was procured from one of its shrubs; and that its meadows produced "spontaneously abundance of Spikenard." HERODOTUS, indeed, had heard of cinnamon in Arabia, where the Laurus, to the bark of which we now give that name, was, I verily believe, never seen: even the myrrh-tree does not seem to have been a native of Arabia, and the public are now informed, that it was tranfplanted from Abyffinian forefts, and has not flourished on the oppofite shore; but, whatever be the countries of myrrh and cinnamon, we may be certain, that any learned Arab would laugh at us, if we were to tell him, that the Sumbulu'l Hind grew wild in abundance on the plains of Tahámah. It feems a bold allegation of GARÇIAS, that he has exhibited "the only


fpecies of nardus known in India, either for confumption by the "natives or for exportation to Perfia and Arabia:” if he meant, that any plant was either used in this country or exported from it by the name of nard, he had been strangely deceived; and if he meant, that it was the only fragrant grafs used here as a medicine or as a perfume, his error was yet more grofs. But, whatever his meaning might

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »