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There are two recensions of the Ramayana, one belonging to Benares and the North West of India, the other to Bengal proper.
Two books out of the seven of which the latter consists, were published with an English prose translation in 1806 and 1810 by Carey and Marshman, the venerable Missionaries of Serampore. Two books of the Benares recension, with an excellent Latin translation of the first book and part of the second, were published in 1829 by Augustus William Von Schlegel. A magnificent edition of the Bengal recension, with an accurate and elegant translation into Italian, has since been brought out, under royal auspices, by Signor Gorresio of Turin, and a French translation of this edition has been published by M. Hippolyte Fauche. There is an excellent article on the Ramayana in the Westminster Review, Vol. L., and another full of interest
ing information on the same subject in the forty-fifth Number of the Calcutta Review. Professor Williams's “ Indian Epic Poetry” gives a full analysis of the Poem with several metrical specimens, and Mrs. Speir in “Life in Ancient India," and Mlle. Clarisse Bader in “ La Femme dans L'Inde Antique” have written lovingly and gracefully upon the great work of Valmiki. To these authorities (and to Mr. Talboys Wheeler's second volume of his history of India) the reader is referred for the results of European criticism upon the poem and for the opinions formed of it in the West by those who have become acquainted with the great poem of the Hindus either in the original or by means of translation. Here, instead of an introduction of my own, I offer what I think will be more interesting, some remarks by Baboo Pramadadas Mittra, an orthodox Hindu, formerly my pupil and now my esteemed colleague.
“The Ramayana is the oldest and most glorious
poem of India, and its author, the saint Valmiki, who is consequently called Adi-kavi or the Father of poetry, is held in the greatest veneration. “I adore that kokila—Valmiki, who mounted on the branch of poesy, warbles in honeyed accents 'Rama' and 'Rama' and 'Rama' again”- this is a literal rendering of the stanza of salutation, composed by an unknown author, which prefaces every manuscript of the poem and genuinely breathes the feelings with which the Hindu regards this holy bard. The account given in the beginning of the poem, of the incidents which led to its composition beautifully harmonizes with the main composition and touchingly shows how exquisitely tender and pure was that saintly heart which breathed forth a poem unrivalled perhaps in the world for its pathos and moral purity. One day the saint accompanied by his disciple resorted to the holy stream Tamasa and finding the waters pure as the heart of the good asked his disciple to fetch his garment of bark. He put it on, and descended into the stream, performed his ablutions and muttered his prayers. Afterwards while roving amidst the woods situated on the banks of the sacred river, he saw a couple of herons wandering secure. On a sudden the male was shot dead by a fowler and the female tossing herself about in the air, screamed out most pitifully her lamentations. At this act of cruelty, the grief of the holy saint burst forth in the exclamation ;
मा निषाद प्रतिष्ठां त्वमगमः शाश्वतीः समाः ।
यत्क्रौञ्चमिथुनादेकमबधीः काममोहितम् ॥
Never for endless years, O forester, shalt thou obtain rest, as thou hast killed one of the loving couple of herons."
He was struck with the rhythm of the sentence he had almost unconsciously uttered; he brooded over it and the piteous event which called it forth. As he
Or, to versify in the metre of the original, excepting the rhyme :