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OF ANCIENT INDIA
CONDENSED into ENGLISH VERSE
By ROMESH C. DUTT, C.I.E.

with AN INTRODUCTION BY
THE RIGHT Hon. F. Max MÜLLER

TWENTY-FOUR PHOTOGRAVURES FROM
ORIGINAL ILLUSTRATIONS DESIGNED
FROM INDIAN SOURCES BY

E. STUART HARDY

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LONDON
T. M. DENT & CO,
29 & 30 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.

Univ. Library, UC Santa Cruz 1989

Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & Co.

At the Ballantyne Press

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G65

W E possess but very little of true Epic Poetry, and the

wonder is that we should possess any. Of course if we define an epic as a poem which in the form of continuous narrative celebrates the achievements of one or more heroic personages of history or tradition, any poet may write an epos. But if by epos are meant early unwritten narrative poems celebrating incidents of heroic tradition, we can easily understand why their number should be so small as it is. Strictly speaking, I know of one true epic poem only, the Kalewala of the Fins, and possibly the Kalewipoeg of the Estonians. These were preserved to the present day, and are still living in the mouths of the people. They were never written down till they were lately collected and fitted together, without any additions, by such men as Von Becker, Lönnrot, Castrén, and others. Lönnrot's first edition of the Kalewala in Finnish appeared in 1835, comprising about 12,000 verses in thirty-two songs. This was translated into Swedish by Castrén in 1841. In 1849, however, Lönnrot published a new edition, consisting of 22,793 verses in fifty songs, and a German translation by Schiefner appeared in 1857. More songs even, all forming integral parts of a large epic poem, have been discovered since the death of Castrén and Lönnrot. While we may perfectly trust the painstaking scholarship and conscientious accuracy of Castrén, Lönnrot, and other Finnish students in their treatment of these ancient popular poems of Finland, some doubt has been thrown on the perfect authenticity of the Estonian poems of Kalewipoeg as collected by Kreutzwald and translated into German

by Reinthal, 1857. They were found to be in a much more fragmentary state, and it is supposed that they were largely restored, while in the case of the Kalewala we possess the trustworthy copy of poems exactly as they were, and are still recited in Finland by old men and women in the presence of their Swedish auditors.

All other epic poems, after existing for an unknown length of time in the tradition of popular poets, have passed through what is called a Diaskeuć, a setting in order, a dressing or recension at the hands of later poets. The most perfect specimen of this kind of epic poetry exists in the two Homeric poems, the Iliad and Odyssey. How the component parts of these poems, such as the Cyclopeia, the story of the wooden horse at Troy, the Nekyia, the Doloneia, the Patrokleia, &c., had existed before they formed part of an Odyssey and Iliad, we can see in the case of Demodokos and other Aoidoi who sang these Aristeias at festivals, both public and private. But we have no trustworthy information as to how these poems came to be collected, whether their dialect and metre were changed in the schools of the Homeridæ, and at what time the first written copies of them were prepared and circulated. I doubt whether in Greece the very idea of a written literature existed much before 500 or 600 B.C., that is, before the first contact between West and East. There is the Greek alphabet, which tells us in the clearest way that the Greeks learnt their letters from the Phænicians ; but there is a long distance between a knowledge of the ABC and its employment for inscriptions, coins, and even for official treaties, and its use for literary purposes. I confess that the well-known passage at the end of the Phædrus gives me the impression as if even Plato had still a recollection of the time when literature was mnemonic only, and not yet written

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