Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

entanglement of vested rights, are here calmly and dispassionately considered by a Government of absolute, yet responsible, power. The education of the people is admitted to be a foremost duty, and will, as finances permit, be extended to the whole community. Public attention is directed here, as in England, to the improvement of the judicial system, the simplification of its form, the straightening of the channels, by which justice is to find its way to the people. In such investigations the Indian Officials have not been backward, and the least cumbersome, least expensive system is being sought after: the depth of European learning is to be combined with the simplicity of Asiatic practice. In questions of taxation, the Indian Collector, who has any due appreciation of his position, is led to reflect, and form a judgment of the comparative expediency, or inexpediency, of fiscal measures. Free trade may have its votaries or antagonists, and the question may be argued upon grounds of general and universal expediency, without the embitterment of party. Next follows the question of expenditure; and the Collector is daily called upon to consider, what should be the charges, which can properly be defrayed from the public chest, of which he is the guardian. No false sympathy is extended to the sinecurist or the courtier: no family influences or prejudices are allowed to operate: no drones can fatten on the honey collected by the community; the principles of the school of economists have been reduced to stern reality.

The volume, which we have placed at the head of this paper, is one, but only one, of the legacies left by its gifted author to these Provinces, for which he lived and died ; and in detailing the duties of a Collector of Revenue, surely some notice of him, who has taught by his practice and words these duties, is not out of place.

When, in 1843, the post of Lieutenant-Governor fell unexpectedly vacant, and the most fastidious of Governor-Generals, who possessed the divining rod of ability, and whose appointments were marked by a wondrous prescience, looked round for a person fit to hold the reins at that crisis, the Foreign Secretary stood alone—the most distinguished of his contemporaries. He may not have had the political skill and vigour, which had characterised Hastings and Elphinstone, nor would he have brought order out of chaos, and converted a rebellious kingdom into thriving provinces, so soon as this has been done by the Punjab Board. Not so great in public estimation as Metcalfe, but in something greater ; not so popular as Clerk, but more deserving to be loved ; he has left us better things, than the frothy declamations of Napier, the songs of triumph of Ellenborough, or the carnage-bought victories of Gough. AH around him was war, bat he calmly worked out his schemes of improvement, and showed that peace has her victories no less renowned than those of war.

Some achieve greatness: he was both good and great, an example to the servants of Government, that great ability can .be united to purity and religion, that success in this world need not steel the heart to the concerns of the next. To enumerate his actions would be to notice every improvement for the last ten years in these provinces, for he could combine wisdom and sound views with the most intimate detail. Amidst the glitter of tinsel of the modern great, it was grateful to find something solid to rest on. He was greater because untitled, and, because undecorated, he appears the more distinguished; for he had not been degraded by knighthood, nor has he left a bootless title to his descendants; but, when the question of the Government of a great dependency was agitated in the senate, his actions alone obtained universal praise: his administration alone stood the test of inquiry.

In the midst of the applause he died. Ere the last echo of praise had reached us, while a new proconsular wreath was weaving for his honoured head, while another lustrum of usefulness and advantage was opening out to him, to be followed, with God's blessing, by years of happiness in his native land, he passed away. It was not to be. He was all but lost to us already: a few months more, and we should see him no more, when he was snatched away by one of those unaccountable dispensations, to which we can only bow in silence, and believe, that the mission entrusted to him had been accomplished: and •so sudden was his death, that the functions of Government for a time stood suspended: the good ship started from her track, as the rudder fell suddenly from the hand of the experienced steersman.

Let no masses of stone, or useless Mausoleum be raised to commemorate so good, and simple-minded a man: let the testimonial be, like his own character, practical, unostentatious, and beneficent to the people, whom he loved so well. It may do for lordlings, who from time to time obstruct the progress of improvement, to be recorded in kindred blocks of unprofitable masonry, by the presumptuous column, or the unmeaning obelisk: let this man live among us, as lives a worthy rival in a sister Presidency: let us learn to connect the moral improvement of the people with the names of Elphinstone and Thomason.

Art. VII.—The Ramayana, an Indian Epic. Edited by Oaspar Gowesio. Paris, 1854.

Signor Gasper Gorresio has done a service of no ordinary nature to all admirers of Sanskrit literature, and his labours deserve honourable mention in Indian periodicals. There is very little taste now-a-days for the Sanskrit language, yet it would be a shame, indeed, to pass over the noble volumes, published by a native of Sardinia, at the national press of France, without some notice. This is no dull volume of exploded and abortive philosophy—no vast commentary, which it makes the head ache only to open and glance at the contents, but a noble Epic Poem, fresh and original, second only to the great Epic of the Greek nation—and the Editor has done his duty well. He has published five volumes of text, which in beauty and elegance of execution cannot be surpassed, and three volumes of translation into the Italian language. The critical Notes are brief, but some of the Prefaces contain much interesting information, especially that of the seventh volume, in which is a succinct, but complete sketch of the history of the poem.

It is singular, that we should have waited so long for a com

I)lete edition of the text, and translation into an European anguage, of this great master-piece: still more strange, that we should be indebted, at last, to a native of Sardinia, a country in no way, either in times past or present, connected with India. In the years 1806 and 1810, the venerable Carey and Marshman published the text and English translation of two books and a half, out of the seven which complete the story ; and not only are these volumes very scarce, but they are very inferior as productions of literary art, though no blame attaches to the excellent men, who, in the very dawn of oriental studies, published in part what none of their successors have found ability or spirit to complete. The great William Schlegel, twenty years afterwards, gave to the world the text of two books, with a Latin translation of the first, both unexceptionable in merit, and excellent, as far as they go: but his labours were interrupted, and never resumed : and another twenty years passed away, ere Signor Gorresio presented to the public, at the expense of Charles Albert, the King of Sardinia, the whole text, the printing of which cannot be surpassed in any country, and the whole translation, in Italian, which may be equalled, but not surpassed, in any other of the languages of Europe. In his translation, he has carefully preserved a Dantesque idiom and form of expression, free from all local patois; his rendering is most faithful, and his language elegant and spirited, and so closely does classical Italian approach to the Latin language, that, though not written in the learned language of Europe, it will not be lost to the general public ; and no oriental library will have any pretention to completeness, without a copy of this magnificent publication.

The Ramayana is essentially the great historic poem of India, the earliest in date, the most complete in design, and the most popular. In it are described the great acts and achievements of Rama, King of Ajodya, the modern Oude, of the solar race of Rajputs, from whom the numerous families, who style themselves " Raghuvansi," still trace their lineage. The other great heroic poem of India is the Makabharata, which describes the deeds of the lunar race of Rajputs, who ruled at Indraprastha, now Delhi, on the Jumna. This poem is confessedly of a much later date, and, though inordinate in length, it is deficient in completeness and unity of action, and clearly a large number of episodes have been added to it, by which the original plan of the poem is injured. Both these poems have a religious scope also, and are as such the objects of the greatest veneration: the Ramayana narrates the acts of Vishnu, the great creator, in his seventh incarnation, that of Rama; the latter is the chronicle of the acts of Krishna, the eighth incarnation of the same deity. The geography of India is divided between them: in the Ramayana the poet conducts us from Ajodya, the base of operations, beyond the Sutlej, into the Punjab, and thence returning, we are invited across the Vyndha range, into the Deccan, across the Nerbudda and Godaveri, to the most southern pointof India, and across the arm of the sea, into the island of Ceylon. In the Mahabharata, Hastinapura is the basis of operations, but the scene of the battles is betwixt the Sutlej and the Jumna, near Thanesur. In some of the Episodes, such as that of Nala, we are conducted into the country of Vidharba, or Berar, where Damayanti resided: and the whole western portion of India is crossed to Dwarka, on the banks of the Indian Ocean, in the neighbourhood of Cutch, at which place Krishna finally fixed his kingdom. The glimpses of geographical knowledge, possessed by the poet, are highly interesting to trace out; and the insight gained into the habits and manners of the people, at the time that the poem was written, is invaluable.

By what combination of syllables was the poet known during the few days that he trod the earth, and left this deathless monument of his power over the feelings of mankind? Is it but a myth, or a shadow, or are we permitted, after this lapse of ages, and the neglect of successive generations, to pronounce" , the name? On this subject there is no doubt:—the poet's name was Valmiki; he was contemporaneous with the heroes whom he describes, and he resided on the banks of the Jumna, near its confluence with the Ganges at Allahabad. Of this fact his accuracy of geographical description of the countries betwixt Oude on one side, and the feet of the Vyndha range on the other, leaves no doubt. Faithful tradition has marked the spot, and in the district of Banda, in British Bundlecund, about twenty miles from the right bank of the river Jumna, stands the Hill of Valmiki, near the village of Bogrehee : on the height is a fort, said to have been his residence: it has beerr our fortunate lot to visit more than one of the seven citieswhich claim the honour of the birth of the blind Mseonian: Wft have looked on Troy,- and- gazed up at the heights of Ida, and we have done so with feelings of reverence; and some such feelings have been engendered, when we stood on the solitary hill of Valmiki, and looked out on the wide view, which tlie poet must have contemplated, when he was dictating these sounding lines: which view comprehends a portion of the country mentioned in the poem.

We regret to say, that our poet began his life as a notorious highway robber, but, repenting of his misdeeds, he betook himself to austerities on the hill, and eventually, when the spirit moved him, to versifying ;. this is his only work that has come down to us, and an additional interest is attached to it, from the fact, that the poet received, in his hermitage, Sita, the faithful wife of the hero, when banished by her over-sensitive and jealous lord: there were born her two sons, Kusa and Lava, who were taught, as children, to repeat and chant the lines descriptive of the great actions of their unknown father, by which they were eventually made known, received and acknowledged, and from them are traced the proudest Bajput castes. We have thus the poet blended with the hero of the piece, and the best proof that Valmiki was well acquainted with the history of Rama.

Some envious critics place the date of these events long subsequent to the Christian era; the Hindus, on the contrary, erect a chronological edifice of their own, of which thousands of years form an unit, and place the date of these transactions in the second age or yug, consequently, many hundred thousand years before the Christian era. The best informed take a middle course, and by a careful comparison of the probable with the improbable, and a collation of facts, give to the Mamaycma a date, which would render its author a oontem

« AnteriorContinuar »