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THE following pages are the result of an endeavour to furnish English students of Sanskrit with a correct edition of the most celebrated drama of India's greatest dramatist. About a century has elapsed since Sir W. Jones discovered that there existed in India a number of Nātakas or Sanskrit dramas, many of them of great antiquity; some abounding in poetry of undoubted merit, and all of them containing valuable pictures of Hindū life and manners. Eager to apply the means thus gained of filling what was before an empty niche in the Temple of Sanskrit Literature, Sir W. Jones addressed himself at once to translate into English the Sakuntala, which he was told was the most admired of all the extant plays.
This work is by the illustrious Kālidāsa, who is supposed by some native authorities (though on insufficient grounds) to have lived in Ujjayinī, the capital of king Vikramāditya, whose reign is the starting-point of the Hindū era called Samvat, beginning 57 years B.C. Kālidāsa is described as one of the nine gems' of that monarch's splendid court. It seems, however, more probable that Kālidāsa flourished in the third century of the Christian era (see p. 474 of Indian Wisdom, published by W. H. Allen & Co., 13, Waterloo Place, London). The Sakuntalā is acknowledged on all hands to be the masterpiece of the great Indian poet. Indeed, no composition of Kālidāsa displays more the richness and fertility of his poetical genius, the exuberance of his imagination, the warmth and play of his fancy, his profound knowledge of the human heart, his delicate appreciation of its most refined and tender emotions, his familiarity with the workings and counter-workings of its conflicting feelings,-in short, more entitles him to rank as 'the Shakespeare of India.' On the Continent such men as Goethe,
Schlegel, and Humboldt have all expressed their admiration of the Hindū poet's greatest work. Goethe's four well-known lines, written in 1792, are
· Willst du die Blüthe des frühen, die Früchte des späteren Jahres, Willst du was reizt und entzückt, willst du was sättigt und nährt, Willst du den Himmel, die Erde, mit einem Namen begreifen :
Nenn' ich Sakontala dich, und so ist Alles gesagt ".'
Unfortunately the Pandits omitted to inform Sir W. Jones that the multiplication of manuscripts of this play, consequent upon its popularity, had led to a perplexing result, — not, however, unexampled, as has since been proved by what has happened to the Rāmāyaṇa,-namely, that the numerous manuscripts separated themselves into two classes: the one, embracing all those in Devanāgarī writing, which, without being uniform, had still a community of character; the other, all those in Bengālī.
These two classes of MSS. are usually distinguished by the names · Deva-nāgarī recension and · Bengāli recension,' which terms may conveniently be adopted. The Deva-nāgarī recension
1 Thus translated by Mr. E. B. Eastwick :-
And all by which the soul is charmed, enraptured, feasted, fed,
I name thee, O Sakuntalā! and all at once is said.' Augustus William von Schlegel, in his first Lecture on Dramatic Literature, says : *Among the Indians, the people from whom perhaps all the cultivation of the human race has been derived, plays were known long before they could have experienced any foreign influence. It has lately been made known in Europe that they have a rich dramatic literature, which ascends back for more than two thousand years. The only specimen of their plays (Nāțaks) hitherto known to us is the delightful Sakontalā, which, notwithstanding the colouring of a foreign climate, bears in its general structure a striking resemblance to our romantic drama.'
Alexander von Humboldt, in treating of Indian poetry, observes : “The name of Kālidāsa has been frequently and early celebrated among the western nations. This great poet flourished at the splendid court of Vikramāditya, and was, therefore, conteniporary with Virgil and Horace. The English and German translations of the Sakuntalā have excited the feeling of admiration which has been so amply bestowed upon Kālidāsa. Tenderness in the expression of feelings, and richness of creative fancy, have assigned to him his lofty place among the poets of all nations. In another place he says : Kālidāsa is a masterly describer of the influence which Nature exercises upon the minds of lovers. The scene in the forest, which he introduced in the drama of Vikrama and Urvasī, is one of the most beautiful and poetical productions which has appeared in any time.'
is thought by most scholars to be the older and purer. Many of the readings of the Bengālī, however, have been defended by Dr. R. Pischel and others; and this recension has been followed by the Sāhitya-darpaşa, one MS. of which bears the date 1504 of our era. The MSS. of the Deva-nāgarī class are chiefly found in the Upper Provinces of India, where the great demand has produced copyists without scholarship, who have faithfully transcribed what they did not understand, and, therefore, could not designedly alter. On the other hand, the copyists in Bengal have been Paņdits whose cacoëthes for amplifying and interpolating has led to much repetition and amplification. Many examples might here be adduced; but I will only refer to the third Act of the Bengāli recension, where the love-scene between the King and Sakuntalā has been expanded to four or five times the length it occupies in the MSS. of the Deva-nāgarī recension. Even the names of the dramatis personæ have been altered : Dushyanta is changed into Dushmanta ; Anasūyā into Anusāyā; Vātāyana into Pārvatāyana ; Sānumatī into Miśrakesī; Taralikā into Pingalikā; Dhanamitra into Dhanavșiddhi; Mārkaņdeya into San.koćana.
Unhappily it was a MS. of this recension, and not a very good specimen of its class, that Sir W. Jones used for his trans, lation. From him, therefore, was gained, about a century ago, the earliest incorrect knowledge of this, the first Sanskrit play known to Europeans. No edition of the text appeared till about forty years afterwards, when one was produced in 1830, after immense labour, at Paris, by M. Chézy. He deserved great credit for the difficulties he surmounted; but his edition was also from a MS. of the Bengāli recension. It abounded also in typographical and other more serious errors. An edition of the Sakuntalā was subsequently printed in Calcutta, also from Bengāli MSS. and in Bengāli character, by Prema-candra, dated sāka 1761 (A.D. 1839). Several editions of the Bengāli recension have been printed at Calcutta in the Deva-nāgarī character; one in 1860 by Premacandra (under the superintendence of Professor E. B. Cowell), for European scholars; others in 1864 and 1870.
It was reserved for Dr. Boehtlingk to be the first to edit the Deva-nāgarī recension of this play at Bonn in the year 1842. No other edition of the text of this recension was published until my first edition in 1853. An edition of the same recension was published at Bombay in 1861, and one at Breslau in 1872 by Dr. Burkhard, Professor in the University of Bonn, to which is added a glossary.
The translations which have been published since that of Sir . W. Jones and the German version of his translation by Forster, in 1791, are—first, the French of M. Chézy; subsequently the German of Hirzel, Rückert, and Boehtlingk; a Danish translation by Hammerich; and more recently, another German translation in prose and verse by Meier; not to speak of Danish and Italian versions of Sir W. Jones' English; and my own English translation, the fourth edition of which was published (by W. H. Allen & Co., 13, Waterloo Place, London) in 1872.
The great Indian dramatist only wrote two other dramas. Of the Vikramorvašī, the twin play of the Sakuntalā, two editions have appeared on the Continent; one at Bonn, by Lenz, and a more perfect one at St. Petersburg, by Bollensen: an edition of this play was also printed at the Education press in Calcutta in 1830, and one by myself in 1849, and another at Calcutta in 1869. Translations by Hoefer and Hirzel have been published in Germany, and in England by Wilson in prose and verse, and a literal translation in English prose by Professor Cowell. The third play, called Mālavikāgnimitra, was edited at Bonn, by Tullberg; and a more correct edition, with English notes, by Shankar P. Paņdit, was published at Bombay in 1869. This drama has been ably translated into German by Professor Weber.
I am bound to acknowledge that I made free use of Dr. Boehtlingk's edition of the text of the Sakuntalā in preparing the first edition for the press. The merit of his work can hardly be overrated; but I may, without presumption, say that I discovered many better readings, corrected a few errors, and introduced much original matter in the shape of annotations. It is no disparagement of Dr. Boehtlingk's labours to say that his edition does not adapt itself to the exigencies of an English student. The notes are in German; they are printed at the end of the volumea practical obstacle to their utility; and they frequently contain corrections of the text. My experience has led me to prefer a system of synopsis, both in respect of the notes and metres.
In regard to the text of the present volume, if I have succeeded in producing a more correct edition of the Deva-nāgarī recension, than those of Dr. Boehtlingk and Dr. Burkhard, the merit is due to the more ample materials which have been placed at my com