Page images

the most abstract notions, and to place a nymph or a genius in every grove and almost in every flower : hence Hygieia and Jafo, health and remedy, are the poetical daughters of ÆSCULAPius, who was either a distinguished physician, or medical skill personified; and hence Chloris, or verdure, is married to the Zephyr. IV. The metaphors and allegories of moralists and metaphysicians have been also very fertile in Deities; of which a thousand examples might be adduced from PLATO, Cicero, and the inventive commentators on Homer in their pedigrees of the Gods, and their fabulous lessons of morality: the richest and noblest stream from this abundant fountain is the charming philosophical tale oi Psyche, or the Progress of the Soul; than which, to my taste, a more beautiful, sublime, and well supported allegory was never produced by the wisdom and ingenuity of man. Hence also the Indian MA'YA', or, as the word is explained by some Hindu scholars, the first in“ clination of the Godhead to diversify himfelf :“ (such is their phrase) by creating worlds," is feigned to be the mother of universal nature, and of all the inferiour Gods; as a Cashmirian informed me, when I asked him, why CA'MA, , or Love, was represented as her fon; but the word Maya', or delusion, has a more fubtile and recondite lense in the Védánta philosophy, where it signifies the system of perceptions, whether of secondary or of primary qualities, which the Deity was believed by EPICHARMUS, PLATo, and many truly pious men, to raise by his omnipresent spirit in the minds of his creatures, but which had not, in their opinion, any exiftence independent of mind.

In drawing a parallel between the Gods of the Indian and European heathens, from whatever source they were derived, I shall remember, that nothing is less favourable to enquiries after truth than a systematical spirit, and shall call to mind the saying of a Hindu writer, “ that who

ever obstinately adheres to any set of opinions,

may bring himself to believe that the freshest $o sandal wood is a fame of fire :” this will effectually prevent me from insisting, that such a God of india was the JUPITER of Greece; such, the APOLLO; such, the MERCURY: in fact, fince all the causes of polytheism contributed largely to the assemblage of Grecian divinities (though Bacon reduces them all to refined allegories, and Newton to a poetical disguise of true history), we find many Joves, many APOLLOS, many MERCURIFS, with distinct attributes and capacities ; nor shall I presume to suggest more, than that, in one capacity or another, there exists a striking similitude between the chief objects of worship in ancient Greece or Italy and in the very interesting country, which we now inhabit.

The comparison, which I proceed to lay before


must needs be very superficial, partly froin my

short refidence in Hindustan, partly from my want of complete leisure for literary amusements, but principally because I have no European book, to refresh my memory of old fables, except the conceited, though not unlearned, work of POMEY, entitled the Pantheon, and that fo miserably translated, that it can hardly be read with patience. A thousand more strokes of resemblance might, I am sure, be collected by any, who should with that view peruse Hesiod, HYGINUS, CORNUTUS, and the other mythologists ; or, which would be a shorter and a pleasanter way, should be satisfied with the

very elegant Syntagmata of LILIUS GIRALDUS.

Disquisitions concerning the manners and conduct of our species in early times, or indeed at any time, are always curious at least and amufing; but they are highly interesting to such, as can say of themselves with Chremes in the play, " We are men, and take an interest in all " that relates to mankind :” They may even be of solid importance in an age, when some intelligent and virtuous persons are inclined to doubt the authenticity of the accounts, delivered by Moses, concerning the primitive world;

[ocr errors]

since no modes or sources of reasoning can be unimportant, which have a tendency to remove such doubts. Either the first eleven chapters of Genefis, all due allowances being made for a figurative Eastern style, are true, or the whole fabrick of our national religion is false ; a conclusion, which none of us, I trust, would wish to be drawn. I, who cannot help believing the divinity of the MESSIAH, from the undisputed antiquity and manifest completion of many prophesies, especially those of ISAIAH, in the only person recorded by history, to whom they are applicable, am obliged of course to believe the fanctity of the venerable books, to which that sacred person refers as genuine ; but it is not the truth of our national religion, as such, that I have at heart : it is truth itself; and, if any cool unbiased reasoner will clearly convince me, that Moses drew his narrative through Egyptian conduits from the primeval fountains of Indian literature, I shall efteem him as a friend for having weeded my mind from a capital error, and promise to stand among the foremost in assisting to circulate the truth, which he has ascertained. After such a declaration, I cannot but persuade myself, that no candid man will be displeased, if, in the course of

my work, I make as free with any arguments, that he

may have advanced, as I should really desire him to do with any of mine, that he may

be disa posed to controvert. Having no system of my own to maintain, I shall not pursue a very regular method, but shall take all the Gods, of whom I discourse, as they happen to present themselves; beginning, however, like the Romans and the Hindus, with Janu or Gane's A.

The titles and attributes of this old Italian deity are fully comprized in two choriambick verses of Sulpitius; and a farther account of him from Ovid would here be fuperfluous :

Jane pater, Jane tuens, dive biceps, biformis,
O cate rerum fator, O principium deorum!

“ Father Janus, all-beholding Janus, thou divinity with two heads, and with two forms; “O fagacious planter of all things, and leader « of deities!”

He was the God, we fee, of Wisdom; whence he is represented on coins with two, and, on the Hetruscan image found at Falisci, with four, faces ; emblems of prudence and circumspection; thus is GANE'SA, the God of Wisdom in Hinduftan, painted with an Elephant's head, the fymbol of fagacious discernment, and attended by a favourite rat, which the Indians consider as a wise and provident animal.

His next great character (the plentiful source of many superstitious usages) was that, from which he is em

« PreviousContinue »