TAKEN in conjunction with my Sanskrit Drama, published in 1924, this work covers the field of Classical Sanskrit Literature, as opposed to the Vedic Literature, the epics, and the Puranas. To bring the subject—matter within the limits of a single volume has rendered it necessary to treat the scientific literature briefly, and to avoid discussions of its subject-matter which appertain rather to the historian of grammar, phi1osophy, law, medicine, astronomy, or mathematics, than to the literary historian. This mode of treatment has rendered it possible, for the first time in any treatise in English on Sanskrit Literature, to pay due attention to the literary qualities of the Kavya. Though it was to Englishmen, such as Sir William Jones and H. T. Cole-brooke, that our earliest knowledge of Sanskrit poetry was due, no English poet shared Goethe’s marvellous appreciation of the merits of works known to him only through the distorting medium of translations, and attention in England has usually been limited to the Vedic literature, as a source for comparative philology, the history of religion, or Indo—European , antiquities ; to the mysticism and monism of , Sanskrit philosophy ; and to the fables and fairy-tales in their relations to western parallels.
The neglect of Sanskrit Kavya is doubtless natural. The great poets of India wrote for audiences of experts; they were masters of the learning of their day, long trained in the use of language, and they aim to please by subtlety, not simplicity of effect. They had at their disposal a singularly beautiful speech, and they- commanded elaborate and most effective metres. ‘Under these circumstances it was inevitable that their works should be difficult, but of those who on that score pass them by it may fairly be said ardua dum metuunt amittunt vera viai. It is in the great writers of Kavya alone, headed by Kalidasa, that we find depth of feeling for life and nature matched with perfection of expression and rhythm. The Kavya literature includes some of the great poetry of the world, but it can never expect to attain wide popularity in the West, for it is essentially untranslatable;
German poets like Ruckert can, indeed, base excellent work on Sanskrit originals, but the effects produced are achieved by wholly different means, while English efforts at verse translations fall invariably below a tolerable mediocrity, their diffuse tepidity contrasting painfully with the brilliant condensation of style, the elegance of metre, and the close adaptation of sound to sense of the originals. I have, therefore, as in my Sanskrit Drama, illustrated the merits of the poets by Sanskrit extracts, adding merely a literal English version, in which no note is taken of variations of text or renderings. To save space l have in the main dealt only with works earlier than A.D. 1200, though especially in the case of the scientific literature important books of later date are briefly noticed.
This book was sent in, completed for the press, in January 1926, but pleasure of work at the University Press precluded printing until the summer of 1927, when it was deemed best, in order not to delay progress, to assign to this preface the notice of such new discoveries and theories of 1926 and 1927 as might have permanent interest.
On the early development of the Kavya welcome light has been thrown by Professor H. Luders’s edition of the fragments found in Central Asia of the Kalpanamanditika of Kumaralata, which is the true description of the work hitherto known to us through a Chinese translation as the Sutralamkara of Acvaghosa. That work, it is suggested, was very different in character from Kumaralata’s. It may have been an exposition in verse, possibly with prose additions, of the Canon of the Sarvastivadins, and it may be represented by fragments still extant; this suggestion can be supported by Asa1aga’s choice of title, Mahayanasutra-lamkara, for his exposition of Mahayana tenets. But that is still merely a conjecture, and even less proved is the view that Subandhu’s famous allusion Bauddhasamgatim ivalamkarabhusitam is to such a text as that ascribed to Acvaghosa. Kumaralata may well have been a younger contemporary of Acvaghosa, who lived after the death of Kaniska, a fact which explains an old crux, the difficulty of ascribing to Acvaghosa the references in the Sutralamkara which seemed inconsistent with the traditional relation of the patriarch and that king. How the Chinese version of the Kalpanamanditika, ‘that which is adorned by poetic invention’, came to bear the style Sutralamkara, remains an unexplained problem.
The fragments shed a very interesting light on the development of the style of prose mingled with verses which appears in a more elaborate form in the Jatakamala. The narratives, eighty in number, which, with ten parables, make up the work, begin with the enunciation of some doctrine, which is then established by means of an appropriate narrative; unlike the Jatakamala, the text does not follow a stereotyped plan of drawing out at the close of each tale the moral which it inculcates. The stanzas used are normally portions of the speeches of the dramatis personae; there is a complete breach with the tradition of the canonical texts which introduce such verses by the term bhasam bhasate; but of course this does not mean that Kumaralata, or Arya Cura who follows this plan in the Jatakamala, is the author of all the verses used; doubtless he often adopts or adapts current maxims. Narrative or descriptive stanzas are rare, and they are marked out for the benefit of the reciter by the words vaksyate hi. Arya Cura, on the other hand, shows a distinct advance; he uses descriptive or narrative stanzas to the extent of over a fifth of his total number of verses, and omits any introduction, inserting them freely to beautify his prose narration. The parables take a different form: in them a prose parable (drstanta) is simply followed by a prose exposition (artha). The language shows the same adherence to correct Sanskrit, with occasional lapses, as in Acvaghosa, and there is a rich variety of metres, including the earliest Aryas in Kavya so far datable with reasonable certainty; the Cloka, Upajati, Vasantatilaka, and Cardulavikridita are affected. Very important is the fact that Prakrit lyric written in the Prakrit of the grammarians (Middle Prakrit) is preluded in two Prakrit Aryas, written in Old Cauraseni, which already manifest that affection for long compounds which is carried to excess in the Gaudavaha.
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