Chips from a German Workshop - Volume IV - Essays chiefly on the Science of Language
by Max Muller
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No doubt, when we first hear of the Indian origin of these fables, and of their migration from India to Europe, we wonder whether it can be so; but the fact is, that the story of this Indo-European migration is not, like the migration of the Indo-European languages, myths, and legends, amatter of theory, but of history, and that it was never quite forgotten either in the East or in the West. Each translator, as he handed on his treasure, seems to have been anxious to show how he came by it.

Several writers who have treated of the origin and spreading of Indo-European stories and fables, have mixed up two or three questions which ought to be treated each on its own merits.

The first question is whether the Aryans, when they broke up their pro-ethnic community, carried away with them, not only their common grammar and dictionary, but likewise some myths and legends which we find that Indians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Celts, Germans, Slaves, when they emerge into the light of history, share in common? That certain deities occur in India, Greece, and Germany, having the same names and the same character, is a fact that can no longer be denied. That certain heroes, too, known to Indians, Greeks, and Romans, point to one and the same origin, both by their name and by their history, is a fact by this time admitted by all whose admission is of real value. As heroes are in most cases gods in disguise, there is nothing very startling in the fact that nations, who had worshipped the same gods, should also have preserved some common legends of demi-gods or heroes, nay, even in a later phase of thought, of fairies and ghosts. The case, however, becomes much more problematical when we ask, whether stories also, fables told with a decided moral purpose, formed part of that earliest Aryan inheritance? This is still doubted by many who have no doubts whatever as to common Aryan myths and legends, and even those who, like myself, have tried to establish by tentative arguments the existence of common Aryan fables, dating from before the Aryan separation, have done so only by showing a possible connection between ancient popular saws and mythological ideas, capable of a moral application. To any one, for instance, who knows how in the poetical mythology of the Aryan tribes, the golden splendor of the rising sun leads to conceptions of the wealth of the Dawn in gold and jewels and her readiness to shower them upon her worshippers, the modern German proverb, Morgenstunde hat Gold im Munde, seems to have a kind of mythological ring, and the stories of benign fairies, changing everything into gold, sound likewise like an echo from the long-forgotten forest of our common Aryan home. If we know how the trick of dragging stolen cattle backwards into their place of hiding, so that their footprints might not lead to the discovery of the thief, appears again and again in the mythology of different Aryan nations, then the pointing of the same trick as a kind of proverb, intended to convey a moral lesson, and illustrated by fables of the same or a very similar character in India and Greece, makes one feel inclined to suspect that here too the roots of these fables may reach to a pro-ethnic period. Vestigia nulla retrorsum is clearly an ancient proverb, dating from a nomadic period, and when we see how Plato ("Alcibiades," i. 123) was perfectly familiar with the sopian myth or fable,—kata ton Aispou muthon, he says—of the fox declining to enter the lion's cave, because all footsteps went into it and none came out, and how the Sanskrit Pacatantra (III.14) tells of a jackal hesitating to enter his own cave, because he sees the footsteps of a lion going in, but not coming out, we feel strongly inclined to admit a common origin for both fables. Here, however, the idea that the Greeks, like La Fontaine, had borrowed their fable from the Pacatantra would be simply absurd, and it would be much more rational, if the process must be one of borrowing, to admit, as Benfey ("Pantschatantra," i. 381) does, that the Hindus, after Alexander's discovery of India, borrowed this story from the Greeks. But if we consider that each of the two fables has its own peculiar tendency, the one deriving its lesson from the absence of backward footprints of the victims, the other from the absence of backward footprints of the lion himself, the admission of a common Aryan proverb such as "vestigia nulla retrorsum" would far better explain the facts such as we find them. Iam not ignorant of the difficulties of this explanation, and I would myself point to the fact that among the Hottentots, too, Dr. Bleek has found a fable of the jackal declining to visit the sick lion, "because the traces of the animals who went to see him did not turn back."[8] Without, however, pronouncing any decided opinion on this vexed question, what I wish to place clearly before you is this, that the spreading of Aryan myths, legends, and fables, dating from a pro-ethnic period, has nothing whatever to do with the spreading of fables taking place in strictly historical times from India to Arabia, to Greece and the rest of Europe, not by means of oral tradition, but through more or less faithful translations of literary works. Those who like may doubt whether Zeus was Dyaus, whether Daphne was Ahan, whether La Belle au Bois was the mother of two children, called L'Aurore and Le Jour,[9] but the fact that a collection of fables was, in the sixth century of our era, brought from India to Persia, and by means of various translations naturalized among Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Jews, and all the rest, admits of no doubt or cavil. Several thousand years have passed between those two migrations, and to mix them up together, to suppose that Comparative Mythology has anything to do with the migration of such fables as that of Perrette, would be an anachronism of a portentous character.

There is a third question, viz., whether besides the two channels just mentioned, there were others through which Eastern fables could have reached Europe, or sopian and other European fables have been transferred to the East. There are such channels, no doubt. Persian and Arab stories, of Indian origin, were through the crusaders brought back to Constantinople, Italy, and France; Buddhist fables were through Mongolian[10] conquerors (13th century) carried to Russia and the eastern parts of Europe. Greek stories may have reached Persia and India at the time of Alexander's conquests and during the reigns of the Diadochi, and even Christian legends may have found their way to the East through missionaries, travellers, or slaves.

Lastly, there comes the question, how far our common human nature is sufficient to account for coincidences in beliefs, customs, proverbs, and fables, which, at first sight, seem to require an historical explanation. Ishall mention but one instance. Professor Wilson ("Essays on Sanskrit Literature," i. p.201) pointed out that the story of the Trojan horse occurs in a Hindu tale, only that instead of the horse we have an elephant. But he rightly remarked that the coincidence was accidental. In the one case, after a siege of nine years, the principal heroes of the Greek army are concealed in a wooden horse, dragged into Troy by a stratagem, and the story ends by their falling upon the Trojans and conquering the city of Priam. In the other story a king bent on securing a son-in-law, had an elephant constructed by able artists, and filled with armed men. The elephant was placed in a forest, and when the young prince came to hunt, the armed men sprang out, overpowered the prince and brought him to the king, whose daughter he was to marry. However striking the similarity may seem to one unaccustomed to deal with ancient legends, Idoubt whether any comparative mythologist has postulated a common Aryan origin for these two stories. They feel that, as far as the mere construction of a wooden animal is concerned, all that was necessary to explain the origin of the idea in one place was present also in the other, and that while the Trojan horse forms an essential part of a mythological cycle, there is nothing truly mythological or legendary in the Indian story. The idea of a hunter disguising himself in the skin of an animal, or even of one animal assuming the disguise of another,[11] are familiar in every part of the world, and if that is so, then the step from hiding under the skin of a large animal to that of hiding in a wooden animal is not very great.

Every one of these questions, as I said before, must be treated on its own merits, and while the traces of the first migration of Aryan fables can be rediscovered only by the most minute and complex inductive processes, the documents of the latter are to be found in the library of every intelligent collector of books. Thus, to return to Perrette and the fables of Pilpay, Huet, the learned bishop of Avranches, the friend of La Fontaine, had only to examine the prefaces of the principal translations of the Indian fables in order to track their wanderings, as he did in his famous "Traite de l'Origine des Romans," published at Paris in 1670, two years after the appearance of the first collection of La Fontaine's fables. Since his time the evidence has become more plentiful, and the whole subject has been more fully and more profoundly treated by Sylvestre de Sacy,[12] Loiseleur Deslongchamps,[13] and Professor Benfey.[14] But though we have a more accurate knowledge of the stations by which the Eastern fables reached their last home in the West, Bishop Huet knew as well as we do that they came originally from India through Persia by way of Bagdad and Constantinople.

In order to gain a commanding view of the countries traversed by these fables, let us take our position at Bagdad in the middle of the eighth century, and watch from that central point the movements of our literary caravan in its progress from the far East to the far West. In the middle of the eighth century, during the reign of the great Khalif Almansur, Abdallah ibn Almokaffa wrote his famous collection of fables, the "Kalila and Dimnah," which we still possess. The Arabic text of these fables has been published by Sylvestre de Sacy, and there is an English translation of it by Mr. Knatchbull, formerly Professor of Arabic at Oxford. Abdallah ibn Almokaffa was a Persian by birth, who after the fall of the Omeyyades became a convert to Mohammedanism, and rose to high office at the court of the Khalifs. Being in possession of important secrets of state, he became dangerous in the eyes of the Khalif Almansur, and was foully murdered.[15] In the preface, Abdallah ibn Almokaffa tells us that he translated these fables from Pehlevi, the ancient language of Persia; and that they had been translated into Pehlevi (about two hundred years before his time) by Barzyeh, the physician of Khosru Nushirvan, the King of Persia, the contemporary of the Emperor Justinian. The King of Persia had heard that there existed in India a book full of wisdom, and he had commanded his Vezier, Buzurjmihr, to find a man acquainted with the languages both of Persia and India. The man chosen was Barzyeh. He travelled to India, got possession of the book, translated it into Persian, and brought it back to the court of Khosru. Declining all rewards beyond a dress of honor, he only stipulated that an account of his own life and opinions should be added to the book. This account, probably written by himself, is extremely curious. It is a kind of Religio Medici of the sixth century, and shows us a soul dissatisfied with traditions and formularies, striving after truth, and finding rest only where many other seekers after truth have found rest before and after him, in a life devoted to alleviating the sufferings of mankind.

There is another account of the journey of this Persian physician to India. It has the sanction of Firdsi, in the great Persian epic, the Shah Nmeh, and it is considered by some[16] as more original than the one just quoted. According to it, the Persian physician read in a book that there existed in India trees or herbs supplying a medicine with which the dead could be restored to life. At the command of the king he went to India in search of those trees and herbs; but, after spending a year in vain researches, he consulted some wise people on the subject. They told him that the medicine of which he had read as having the power of restoring men to life had to be understood in a higher and more spiritual sense, and that what was really meant by it were ancient books of wisdom preserved in India, which imparted life to those who were dead in their folly and sins.[17] Thereupon the physician translated these books, and one of them was the collection of fables, the "Kalila and Dimnah."

It is possible that both these stories were later inventions; the preface also by Ali, the son of Alshah Farsi, in which the names of Bidpai and King Dabshelim are mentioned for the first time, is of later date. But the fact remains that Abdallah ibn Almokaffa, the author of the oldest Arabic collection of our fables, translated them from Pehlevi, the language of Persia at the time of Khosru Nushirvan, and that the Pehlevi text which he translated was believed to be a translation of a book brought from India in the middle of the sixth century. That Indian book could not have been the Pacatantra, as we now possess it, but must have been a much larger collection of fables, for the Arabic translation, the "Kalilah and Dimnah," contains eighteen chapters instead of the five of the Pacatantra, and it is only in the fifth, the seventh, the eighth, the ninth, and the tenth chapters that we find the same stories which form the five books of the Pakatantra in the textus ornatior. Even in these chapters the Arabic translator omits stories which we find in the Sanskrit text, and adds others which are not to be found there.

In this Arabic translation the story of the Brahman and the pot of rice runs as follows:—

"A religious man was in the habit of receiving every day from the house of a merchant a certain quantity of butter (oil) and honey, of which, having eaten as much as he wanted, he put the rest into a jar, which he hung on a nail in a corner of the room, hoping that the jar would in time be filled. Now, as he was leaning back one day on his couch, with a stick in his hand, and the jar suspended over his head, he thought of the high price of butter and honey, and said to himself, 'Iwill sell what is in the jar, and buy with the money which I obtain for it ten goats, which, producing each of them a young one every five months, in addition to the produce of the kids as soon as they begin to bear, it will not be long before there is a large flock.' He continued to make his calculations, and found that he should at this rate, in the course of two years, have more than four hundred goats. 'At the expiration of this term I will buy,' said he, 'ahundred black cattle, in the proportion of a bull or a cow for every four goats. Iwill then purchase land, and hire workmen to plough it with the beasts, and put it into tillage, so that before five years are over I shall, no doubt, have realized a great fortune by the sale of the milk which the cows will give, and of the produce of my land. My next business will be to build a magnificent house, and engage a number of servants, both male and female; and, when my establishment is completed, Iwill marry the handsomest woman I can find, who, in due time becoming a mother, will present me with an heir to my possessions, who, as he advances in age, shall receive the best masters that can be procured; and, if the progress which he makes in learning is equal to my reasonable expectations, Ishall be amply repaid for the pains and expense which I have bestowed upon him; but if, on the other hand, he disappoints my hopes, the rod which I have here shall be the instrument with which I will make him feel the displeasure of a justly-offended parent.' At these words he suddenly raised the hand which held the stick towards the jar, and broke it, and the contents ran down upon his head and face."[18] ....

You will have observed the coincidences between the Arabic and the Sanskrit versions, but also a considerable divergence, particularly in the winding up of the story. The Brahman and the holy man both build their castles in the air; but, while the former kicks his wife, the latter only chastises his son. How this change came to pass we cannot tell. One might suppose that, at the time when the book was translated from Sanskrit into Pehlevi, or from Pehlevi into Arabic, the Sanskrit story was exactly like the Arabic story, and that it was changed afterwards. But another explanation is equally admissible, viz., that the Pehlevi or the Arabic translator wished to avoid the offensive behavior of the husband kicking his wife, and therefore substituted the son as a more deserving object of castigation.

We have thus traced our story from Sanskrit to Pehlevi, and from Pehlevi to Arabic; we have followed it in its migrations from the hermitages of Indian sages to the court of the kings of Persia, and from thence to the residence of the powerful Khalifs at Bagdad. Let us recollect that the Khalif Almansur, for whom the Arabic translation was made, was the contemporary of Abderrhaman, who ruled in Spain, and that both were but little anterior to Harun al Rashid and Charlemagne. At that time, therefore, the way was perfectly open for these Eastern fables, after they had once reached Bagdad, to penetrate into the seats of Western learning, and to spread to every part of the new empire of Charlemagne. They may have done so, for all we know; but nearly three hundred years pass before these fables meet us again in the literature of Europe. The Carlovingian empire had fallen to pieces, Spain had been rescued from the Mohammedans, William the Conqueror had landed in England, and the Crusades had begun to turn the thoughts of Europe towards the East, when, about the year 1080, we hear of a Jew of the name of Symeon, the son of Seth, who translated these fables from Arabic into Greek. He states in his preface that the book came originally from India, that it was brought to the King Chosroes of Persia, and then translated into Arabic. His own translation into Greek must have been made from an Arabic MS. of the "Kalila and Dimna," in some places more perfect, in others less perfect, than the one published by De Sacy. The Greek text has been published, though very imperfectly, under the title of "Stephanites and Ichnelates."[19] Here our fable is told as follows (p.337):—

"It is said that a beggar kept some honey and butter in a jar close to where he slept. One night he thus thought within himself: 'Ishall sell this honey and butter for however small a sum; with it I shall buy ten goats, and these in five months will produce as many again. In five years they will become four hundred. With them I shall buy one hundred cows, and with them I shall cultivate some land. And what with their calves and the harvests, Ishall become rich in five years, and build a house with four wings,[20] ornamented with gold, and buy all kinds of servants, and marry a wife. She will give me a child, and I shall call him Beauty. It will be a boy, and I shall educate him properly; and if I see him lazy, Ishall give him such a flogging with this stick.....' With these words he took a stick that was near him, struck the jar, and broke it, so that the honey and milk ran down on his beard."

This Greek translation might, no doubt, have reached La Fontaine; but as the French poet was not a great scholar, least of all a reader of Greek MSS., and as the fables of Symeon Seth were not published till 1697, we must look for other channels through which the old fable was carried along from East to West.

There is, first of all, an Italian translation of the "Stephanites and Ichnelates," which was published at Ferrara in 1583.[21] The title is, "Del Governo de' Regni. Sotto morali essempi di animali ragionanti tra loro. Tratti prima di lingua Indiana in Agarena da Lelo Demno Saraceno. Et poi dall' Agarena nella Greca da Simeone Setto, philosopho Antiocheno. Et hora tradotti di Greco in Italiano." This translation was probably the work of Giulio Nuti.

There is, besides, a Latin translation, or rather a free rendering of the Greek translation by the learned Jesuit, Petrus Possinus, which was published at Rome in 1666.[22] This may have been, and, according to some authorities, has really been one of the sources from which La Fontaine drew his inspirations. But though La Fontaine may have consulted this work for other fables, Ido not think that he took from it the fable of Perrette and the milk-pail.

The fact is, these fables had found several other channels through which, as early as the thirteenth century, they reached the literary market of Europe, and became familiar as household words, at least among the higher and educated classes. We shall follow the course of some of these channels. First, then, alearned Jew, whose name seems to have been Joel, translated our fables from Arabic into Hebrew (1250?). His work has been preserved in one MS. at Paris, but has not yet been published, except the tenth book, which was communicated by Dr. Neubauer to Benfey's journal, "Orient und Occident" (vol.i. p.658). This Hebrew translation was translated by another converted Jew, Johannes of Capua, into Latin. His translation was finished between 1263-1278, and, under the title of "Directorium Human Vit," it became very soon a popular work with the select reading public of the thirteenth century.[23] In the "Directorium," and in Joel's translation, the name of Sendebar is substituted for that of Bidpay. The "Directorium" was translated into German at the command of Eberhard, the great Duke of Wrtemberg,[24] and both the Latin text and the German translation occur, in repeated editions, among the rare books printed between 1480 and the end of the fifteenth century.[25] ASpanish translation, founded both on the German and the Latin texts, appeared at Burgos in 1493;[26] and from these different sources flowed in the sixteenth century the Italian renderings of Firenzuola (1548)[27] and Doni (1552).[28] As these Italian translations were repeated in French[29] and English, before the end of the sixteenth century, they might no doubt have supplied La Fontaine with subjects for his fables.

But, as far as we know, it was a third channel that really brought the Indian fables to the immediate notice of the French poet. APersian poet, of the name of Nasr Allah, translated the work of Abdallah ibn Almokaffa into Persian about 1150. This Persian translation was enlarged in the fifteenth century by another Persian poet, Husain ben Ali called el Vaez, under the title of "Anvri Suhaili."[30] This name will be familiar to many members of the Indian Civil Service, as being one of the old Haileybury class-books which had to be construed by all who wished to gain high honors in Persia. This work, or at least the first books of it, were translated into French by David Sahid of Ispahan, and published at Paris in 1644, under the title of "Livre des Lumires, ou, la Conduite des Rois, compos par le Sage Pilpay, Indien." This translation, we know, fell into the hands of La Fontaine, and a number of his most charming fables were certainly borrowed from it.

But Perrette with the milk-pail has not yet arrived at the end of her journey, for if we look at the "Livre des Lumires," as published at Paris, we find neither the milkmaid nor her prototype, the Brahman who kicks his wife, or the religious man who flogs his boy. That story occurs in the later chapters, which were left out in the French translation; and La Fontaine, therefore, must have met with his model elsewhere.

Remember that in all our wanderings we have not yet found the milkmaid, but only the Brahman or the religious man. What we want to know is who first brought about this metamorphosis.

No doubt La Fontaine was quite the man to seize on any jewel which was contained in the Oriental fables, to remove the cumbersome and foreign-looking setting, and then to place the principal figure in that pretty frame in which most of us have first become acquainted with it. But in this case the charmer's wand did not belong to La Fontaine, but to some forgotten worthy, whose very name it will be difficult to fix upon with certainty.

We have, as yet, traced three streams only, all starting from the Arabic translation of Abdallah ibn Almokaffa, one in the eleventh, another in the twelfth, athird in the thirteenth century, all reaching Europe, some touching the very steps of the throne of Louis XIV., yet none of them carrying the leaf which contained the story of "Perrette," or of the "Brahman," to the threshold of La Fontaine's home. We must, therefore, try again.

After the conquest of Spain by the Mohammedans, Arabic literature had found a new home in Western Europe, and among the numerous works translated from Arabic into Latin or Spanish, we find towards the end of the thirteenth century (1289) aSpanish translation of our fables, called "Calila Dymna."[31] In this the name of the philosopher is changed from Bidpai to Bundobel. This, or another translation from Arabic, was turned into Latin verse by Raimond de Bziers in 1313 (not published).

Lastly, we find in the same century another translation from Arabic straight into Latin verse, by Baldo, which became known under the name of "sopus alter."[32]

From these frequent translations, and translations of translations, in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, we see quite clearly that these Indian fables were extremely popular, and were, in fact, more widely read in Europe than the Bible, or any other book. They were not only read in translations, but having been introduced into sermons,[33] homilies, and works on morality, they were improved upon, acclimatized, localized, moralized, till at last it is almost impossible to recognize their Oriental features under their homely disguises.

I shall give you one instance only.

Rabelais, in his "Gargantua," gives a long description how a man might conquer the whole world. At the end of this dialogue, which was meant as a satire on Charles V., we read:—

"There was there present at that time an old gentleman well experienced in the wars, astern soldier, and who had been in many great hazards, named Echephron, who, hearing this discourse, said: 'J'ay grand peur que toute ceste entreprise sera semblable la farce du pot au laict duquel un cordavanier se faisoit riche par resverie, puis le pot cass, n'eut de quoy disner.'"

This is clearly our story, only the Brahman has, as yet, been changed into a shoemaker only, and the pot of rice or the jar of butter and honey into a pitcher of milk. Now it is perfectly true that if a writer of the fifteenth century changed the Brahman into a shoemaker, La Fontaine might, with the same right, have replaced the Brahman by his milkmaid. Knowing that the story was current, was, in fact, common property in the fifteenth century, nay, even at a much earlier date, we might really be satisfied after having brought the germs of "Perrette" within easy reach of La Fontaine. But, fortunately, we can make at least one step further, astep of about two centuries. This step backwards brings us to the thirteenth century, and there we find our old Indian friend again, and this time really changed into a milkmaid. The book I refer to is written in Latin, and is called, "Dialogus Creaturarum optime moralizatus;" in English, the "Dialogue of Creatures moralized." It was a book intended to teach the principles of Christian morality by examples taken from ancient fables. It was evidently a most successful book, and was translated into several modern languages. There is an old translation of it in English, first printed by Rastell,[34] and afterwards repeated in 1816. Ishall read you from it the fable in which, as far as I can find, the milkmaid appears for the first time on the stage, surrounded already by much of that scenery which, four hundred years later, received its last touches at the hand of La Fontaine.

"DIALOGO C. (p.ccxxiii.) For as it is but madnesse to trust to moche in surete, so it is but foly to hope to moche of vanyteys, for vayne be all erthly thinges longynge to men, as sayth Davyd, Psal. xciiii: Wher of it is tolde in fablys that a lady uppon a tyme delyvered to her mayden a galon of mylke to sell at a cite, and by the way, as she sate and restid her by a dyche side, she began to thinke that with the money of the mylke she wold bye an henne, the which shulde bringe forth chekyns, and when they were growyn to hennys she wolde sell them and by piggis, and eschaunge them in to shepe, and the shepe in to oxen, and so whan she was come to richesse she sholde be maried right worshipfully unto some worthy man, and thus she reioycid. And whan she was thus mervelously comfortid and ravisshed inwardly in her secrete solace, thinkynge with howe greate ioye she shuld be ledde towarde the chirche with her husbond on horsebacke, she sayde to her self: 'Goo we, goo we.' Sodaynlye she smote the ground with her fote, myndynge to spurre the horse, but her fote slypped, and she fell in the dyche, and there lay all her mylke, and so she was farre from her purpose, and never had that she hopid to have."[35]

Here we have arrived at the end of our journey. It has been a long journey across fifteen or twenty centuries, and I am afraid our following Perrette from country to country, and from language to language, may have tired some of my hearers. Ishall, therefore, not attempt to fill the gap that divides the fable of the thirteenth century from La Fontaine. Suffice it to say, that the milkmaid, having once taken the place of the Brahman, maintained it against all comers. We find her as Dona Truhana, in the famous "Conde Lucanor," the work of the Infante Don Juan Manuel,[36] who died in 1347, the grandson of St. Ferdinand, the nephew of Alfonso the Wise, though himself not a king, yet more powerful than a king; renowned both by his sword and by his pen, and possibly not ignorant of Arabic, the language of his enemies. We find her again in the "Contes et Nouvelles" of Bonaventure des Periers, published in the sixteenth century, abook which we know that La Fontaine was well acquainted with. We find her after La Fontaine in all the languages of Europe.[37]

[Transcriber's Note:

This large table could not be reproduced as printed, so the information has been split into two groups. The table itself gives only the years and languages of the translations, with their family relationship. The following lists then give the full text, again divided into two formats: the first strictly chronological, the second sorted by branches.

Words in [brackets] were added by the transcriber.]

A.D. OLD COLLECTION OF INDIAN FABLES. 500- 531-579 Pehlevi (lost) 600 570 Syriac

700- 754-775 Arabic 800 1000- 1080 1100 Greek 1100- 1118-53 1200 Persian 1200- 1289 1250 1300 Latin Spanish Hebrew 1263-78 Latin 1300- 1313 [pre-1325] 1400 Latin German 1400- 1494 1493 1500 Persian Spanish 1500- 1590 "New" 1540 1548 1600 [Persian] Turkish Italian Hindustani 1552 1556 Italian French 1570 1579 1583 English French Italian 1600- 1644 1700 French 1654 Spanish 1666 Latin 1700- 1724

1800 French

[Full text, by date:]

531-579. Khosru Nushirvan, King of Persia; his physician, Barzyeh, translates the Indian fables into Pehlevi, s. t. "Qalilag and Damnag" (lost).

570. Translation of the "Qualilag and Damnag," from Indian into Syriac, by Bud Periodeutes (Benfey and Socin).

754-775. Khalif Almansur. Abdallah ibn Almokaffa (d. 760) translates the Pehlevi into Arabic (ed. de Sacy, 1816).

1080. Into Greek, by Simeon Seth, s. t. "Ichnelates et Stephanites," ed. Starkius, 1697.

1118-53. Into Persian, by Abul Maali Nasr Allah (prose).

Into Latin by Baldo, s. t. Alter sopus (ed. du Mril).

1250. Into Hebrew, by Rabbi Joel.

1263-78. Into Latin, by Johannes of Capua, s. t. "Directorium human vit" (print. 1480).

1289. Into Spanish, by order of the Infante Don Alfonso, s. t. "Calila Dymna" (ed. de Gayangos)

1313. Into Latin, by Raimond de Beziers, s. t. "Calila et Dimna."

Into German under Eberhard, Duke of Wrtemberg (d. 1325), printed before 1483.


1493. Into Spanish, s. t. "Exemplario contra los Engaos."

1494. Modernized in Persian, by Husain ben Ali, el Vaez, s. t. "Anvari Suhaili."

1540. Into Turkish, by Ali Tchelebi, s. t. "Homayun Nameh."

1548. Into Italian, by Ange Firenzuola, s. t. "Discorsi degli Animali."

1552. Into Italian, by Doni, s. t. "La Filosofia Morale."

1556. Into French, by Gabr. Cottier, s. t. "Le Plaisant Discours des Animaux."

1570. Into English, by North.

1579. Into French, by Pierre de La Rivey, s. t. "Deux Livres de Filosofie Fabuleuse."

1583. Into Italian, by G. Nuti, s. t. "Del Governo de' Regni."

1590. New, by Abulfazl, for Akbar, "Ayari Danish."

Translated into Hindustani, s. t. "Khirud Ufroz," the Illuminator of the Understanding.

1644. Into French, by David Sahid d'Ispahan (Gaulmin), s. t. "Livre des Lumires, ou la Conduite des Rois, compos par le sage Pilpay, Indien" (4 cap. only).

Into Spanish, by Brattuti, "Espejo politico," 1654.

1666. Into Latin, by Petrus Possinus.

1724. Into French, by Galland, s. t. "Les Contes et Fables Indiennes de Bibpa et de Lokman" (4 cap. only); finished in 1778 by Cardonne.

[Full text, by branches; each added indentation is a new branch.]

Into Latin by Baldo, s. t. Alter sopus (ed. du Mril).

1289. Into Spanish, by order of the Infante Don Alfonso, s. t. "Calila Dymna" (ed. de Gayangos) 1313. Into Latin, by Raimond de Beziers, s. t. "Calila et Dimna."

1118-53. Into Persian, by Abul Maali Nasr Allah (prose). 1494. Modernized in Persian, by Husain ben Ali, el Vaez, s. t. "Anvari Suhaili." a: 1590. New, by Abulfazl, for Akbar, "Ayari Danish." a: Translated into Hindustani, s. t. "Khirud Ufroz," the Illuminator of the Understanding. b: 1644. Into French, by David Sahid d'Ispahan (Gaulmin), s. t. "Livre des Lumires, ou la Conduite des Rois, compos par le sage Pilpay, Indien" (4 cap. only). c: 1540. Into Turkish, by Ali Tchelebi, s. t. "Homayun Nameh." c: Into Spanish, by Brattuti, "Espejo politico," 1654. c: 1724. Into French, by Galland, s. t. "Les Contes et Fables Indiennes de Bibpa et de Lokman" (4 cap. only); finished in 1778 by Cardonne.

1250. Into Hebrew, by Rabbi Joel. 1263-78. Into Latin, by Johannes of Capua, s. t. "Directorium human vit" (print. 1480). a: Into German under Eberhard, Duke of Wrtemberg (d. 1325), printed before 1483. b: 1493. Into Spanish, s. t. "Exemplario contra los Engaos." b: 1548. Into Italian, by Ange Firenzuola, s. t. "Discorsi degli Animali." b: 1552. Into Italian, by Doni, s. t. "La Filosofia Morale." b: 1556. Into French, by Gabr. Cottier, s. t. "Le Plaisant Discours des Animaux." b: 1570. Into English, by North. b: 1579. Into French, by Pierre de La Rivey, s. t. "Deux Livres de Filosofie Fabuleuse."

1080. Into Greek, by Simeon Seth, s. t. "Ichnelates et Stephanites," ed. Starkius, 1697. 1583. Into Italian, by G. Nuti, s. t. "Del Governo de' Regni." 1666. Into Latin, by Petrus Possinus.

You see now before your eyes the bridge on which our fables came to us from East to West. The same bridge which brought us Perrette brought us hundreds of fables, all originally sprung up in India, many of them carefully collected by Buddhist priests, and preserved in their sacred canon, afterwards handed on to the Brahminic writers of a later age, carried by Barzyeh from India to the court of Persia, then to the courts of the Khalifs at Bagdad and Cordova, and of the emperors at Constantinople. Some of them, no doubt, perished on their journey, others were mixed up together, others were changed till we should hardly know them again. Still, if you once know the eventful journey of Perrette, you know the journey of all the other fables that belong to this Indian cycle. Few of them have gone through so many changes, few of them have found so many friends, whether in the courts of kings or in the huts of beggars. Few of them have been to places where Perrette has not also been. This is why I selected her and her passage through the world as the best illustration of a subject which otherwise would require a whole course of lectures to do it justice.

But though our fable represents one large class or cluster of fables, it does not represent all. There were several collections, besides the Pancatantra, which found their way from India to Europe. The most important among them is the "Book of the Seven Wise Masters, or the Book of Sindbad," the history of which has lately been written, with great learning and ingenuity, by Signor Comparetti.[38]

These large collections of fables and stories mark what may be called the high roads on which the literary products of the East were carried to the West. But there are, beside these high roads, some smaller, less trodden paths on which single fables, sometimes mere proverbs, similes, or metaphors, have come to us from India, from Persepolis, from Damascus and Bagdad. Ihave already alluded to the powerful influence which Arabic literature exercised on Western Europe through Spain. Again, amost active interchange of Eastern and Western ideas took place at a later time during the progress of the Crusades. Even the inroads of Mongolian tribes into Russia and the East of Europe kept up a literary bartering between Oriental and Occidental nations.

But few would have suspected a Father of the Church as an importer of Eastern fables. Yet so it is.

At the court of the same Khalif Almansur, where Abdallah ibn Almokaffa translated the fables of Calila and Dimna from Persian into Arabic, there lived a Christian of the name of Sergius, who for many years held the high office of treasurer to the Khalif. He had a son to whom he gave the best education that could then be given, his chief tutor being one Cosmas, an Italian monk, who had been taken prisoner by the Saracens, and sold as a slave at Bagdad. After the death of Sergius, his son succeeded him for some time as chief councillor (prtosumboulos) to the Khalif Almansur. Such, however, had been the influence of the Italian monk on his pupil's mind, that he suddenly resolved to retire from the world, and to devote himself to study, meditation, and pious works. From the monastery of St. Saba, near Jerusalem, this former minister of the Khalif issued the most learned works on theology, particularly his "Exposition of the Orthodox Faith." He soon became the highest authority on matters of dogma in the Eastern Church, and he still holds his place among the saints both of the Eastern and Western Churches. His name was Joannes, and from being born at Damascus, the former capital of the Khalifs, he is best known in history as Joannes Damascenus, or St. John of Damascus. He must have known Arabic, and probably Persian; but his mastery of Greek earned him, later in life, the name of Chrysorrhoas, or Gold-flowing. He became famous as the defender of the sacred images, and as the determined opponent of the Emperor Leo the Isaurian, about 726. It is difficult in his life to distinguish between legend and history, but that he had held high office at the court of the Khalif Almansur, that he boldly opposed the iconoclastic policy of the Emperor Leo, and that he wrote the most learned theological works of his time, cannot be easily questioned.

Among the works ascribed to him is a story called "Barlaam and Joasaph."[39] There has been a fierce controversy as to whether he was the author of it or not. Though for our own immediate purposes it would be of little consequence whether the book was written by Joannes Damascenus or by some less distinguished ecclesiastic, Imust confess that the arguments hitherto adduced against his authorship seem to me very weak.

The Jesuits did not like the book, because it was a religious novel. They pointed to a passage in which the Holy Ghost is represented as proceeding from the Father "and the Son," as incompatible with the creed of an Eastern ecclesiastic. That very passage, however, has now been proved to be spurious; and it should be borne in mind, besides, that the controversy on the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son, or from the Father through the Son, dates a century later than Joannes. The fact, again, that the author does not mention Mohammedanism,[40] proves nothing against the authorship of Joannes, because, as he places Barlaam and Joasaph in the early centuries of Christianity, he would have ruined his story by any allusion to Mohammed's religion, then only a hundred years old. Besides, he had written a separate work, in which the relative merits of Christianity and Mohammedanism are discussed. The prominence given to the question of the worship of images shows that the story could not have been written much before the time of Joannes Damascenus, and there is nothing in the style of our author that could be pointed out as incompatible with the style of the great theologian. On the contrary, the author of "Barlaam and Joasaph" quotes the same authors whom Joannes Damascenus quotes most frequently—e.g., Basilius and Gregorius Nazianzenus. And no one but Joannes could have taken long passages from his own works without saying where he borrowed them.[41]

The story of "Barlaam and Joasaph"—or, as he is more commonly called, Josaphat—may be told in a few words: "Aking in India, an enemy and persecutor of the Christians, has an only son. The astrologers have predicted that he would embrace the new doctrine. His father, therefore, tries by all means in his power to keep him ignorant of the miseries of the world, and to create in him a taste for pleasure and enjoyment. AChristian hermit, however, gains access to the prince, and instructs him in the doctrines of the Christian religion. The young prince is not only baptized, but resolves to give up all his earthly riches; and after having converted his own father and many of his subjects, he follows his teacher into the desert."

The real object of the book is to give a simple exposition of the principal doctrines of the Christian religion. It also contains a first attempt at comparative theology, for in the course of the story there is a disputation on the merits of the principal religions of the world—the Chaldan, the Egyptian, the Greek, the Jewish, and the Christian. But one of the chief attractions of this manual of Christian theology consisted in a number of fables and parables with which it is enlivened. Most of them have been traced to an Indian source. Ishall mention one only which has found its way into almost every literature of the world:[42]—

"A man was pursued by a unicorn, and while he tried to flee from it, he fell into a pit. In falling he stretched out both his arms, and laid hold of a small tree that was growing on one side of the pit. Having gained a firm footing, and holding to the tree, he fancied he was safe, when he saw two mice, ablack and a white one, busy gnawing the root of the tree to which he was clinging. Looking down into the pit, he perceived a horrid dragon with his mouth wide open, ready to devour him, and when examining the place on which his feet rested, the heads of four serpents glared at him. Then he looked up, and observed drops of honey falling down from the tree to which he clung. Suddenly the unicorn, the dragon, the mice, and the serpents were all forgotten, and his mind was intent only on catching the drops of sweet honey trickling down from the tree."

An explanation is hardly required. The unicorn is Death, always chasing man; the pit is the world; the small tree is man's life, constantly gnawed by the black and the white mouse—i.e., by night and day; the four serpents are the four elements which compose the human body; the dragon below is meant for the jaws of hell. Surrounded by all those horrors, man is yet able to forget them all, and to think only of the pleasures of life, which, like a few drops of honey, fall into his mouth from the tree of life.[43]

But what is still more curious is, that the author of "Barlaam and Josaphat" has evidently taken his very hero, the Indian Prince Josaphat, from an Indian source. In the "Lalita Vistara"—the life, though no doubt the legendary life, of Buddha—the father of Buddha is a king. When his son is born, the Brahman Asita predicts that he will rise to great glory, and become either a powerful king, or, renouncing the throne and embracing the life of a hermit become a Buddha.[44] The great object of his father is to prevent this. He therefore keeps the young prince, when he grows up, in his garden and palaces, surrounded by all pleasures which might turn his mind from contemplation to enjoyment. More especially he is to know nothing of illness, old age, and death, which might open his eyes to the misery and unreality of life. After a time, however, the prince receives permission to drive out; and then follow the four drives,[45] so famous in Buddhist history. The places where these drives took place were commemorated by towers still standing in the time of Fa Hian's visit to India, early in the fifth century after Christ, and even in the time of Hiouen Thsang, in the seventh century. Ishall read you a short account of the three drives:[46]—

"One day when the prince with a large retinue was driving through the eastern gate of the city, on the way to one of his parks, he met on the road an old man, broken and decrepit. One could see the veins and muscles over the whole of his body, his teeth chattered, he was covered with wrinkles, bald, and hardly able to utter hollow and unmelodious sounds. He was bent on his stick, and all his limbs and joints trembled. 'Who is that man?' said the prince to his coachman. 'He is small and weak, his flesh and his blood are dried up, his muscles stick to his skin, his head is white, his teeth chatter, his body is wasted away; leaning on his stick, he is hardly able to walk, stumbling at every step. Is there something peculiar in his family, or is this the common lot of all created beings?'

"'Sir,' replied the coachman, 'that man is sinking under old age, his senses have become obtuse, suffering has destroyed his strength, and he is despised by his relations. He is without support and useless, and people have abandoned him, like a dead tree in a forest. But this is not peculiar to his family. In every creature youth is defeated by old age. Your father, your mother, all your relations, all your friends, will come to the same state; this is the appointed end of all creatures.'

"'Alas!' replied the prince, 'are creatures so ignorant, so weak and foolish as to be proud of the youth by which they are intoxicated, not seeing the old age which awaits them? As for me, Igo away. Coachman, turn my chariot quickly. What have I, the future prey of old age—what have I to do with pleasure?' And the young prince returned to the city without going to the park.

"Another time the prince was driving through the southern gate to his pleasure-garden, when he perceived on the road a man suffering from illness, parched with fever, his body wasted, covered with mud, without a friend, without a home, hardly able to breathe, and frightened at the sight of himself, and the approach of death. Having questioned his coachman, and received from him the answer which he expected, the young prince said, 'Alas! health is but the sport of a dream, and the fear of suffering must take this frightful form. Where is the wise man who, after having seen what he is, could any longer think of joy and pleasure?' The prince turned his chariot, and returned to the city.

"A third time he was driving to his pleasure-garden through the western gate, when he saw a dead body on the road, lying on a bier and covered with a cloth. The friends stood about crying, sobbing, tearing their hair, covering their heads with dust, striking their breasts, and uttering wild cries. The prince, again, calling his coachman to witness this painful scene, exclaimed, 'Oh, woe to youth, which must be destroyed by old age! Woe to health, which must be destroyed by so many diseases! Woe to this life, where a man remains so short a time! If there were no old age, no disease, no death; if these could be made captive forever!' Then, betraying for the first time his intentions, the young prince said, 'Let us turn back, Imust think how to accomplish deliverance.'

"A last meeting put an end to hesitation. He was driving through the northern gate on the way to his pleasure-gardens, when he saw a mendicant, who appeared outwardly calm, subdued, looking downwards, wearing with an air of dignity his religious vestment, and carrying an alms-bowl.

"'Who is that man?' asked the prince.

"'Sir,' replied the coachman, 'this man is one of those who are called Bhikshus, or mendicants. He has renounced all pleasures, all desires, and leads a life of austerity. He tries to conquer himself. He has become a devotee. Without passion, without envy, he walks about asking for alms.'

"'This is good and well said,' replied the prince. 'The life of a devotee has always been praised by the wise. It will be my refuge, and the refuge of other creatures; it will lead us to a real life, to happiness and immortality.'

"With these words the young prince turned his chariot, and returned to the city."

If we now compare the story of Joannes of Damascus, we find that the early life of Josaphat is exactly the same as that of Buddha. His father is a king, and after the birth of his son, an astrologer predicts that he will rise to glory; not, however, in his own kingdom, but in a higher and better one; in fact, that he will embrace the new and persecuted religion of the Christians. Everything is done to prevent this. He is kept in a beautiful palace, surrounded by all that is enjoyable; and great care is taken to keep him in ignorance of sickness, old age, and death. After a time, however, his father gives him leave to drive out. On one of his drives he sees two men, one maimed, the other blind. He asks what they are, and is told that they are suffering from disease. He then inquires whether all men are liable to disease, and whether it is known beforehand who will suffer from disease and who will be free; and when he hears the truth, he becomes sad, and returns home. Another time, when he drives out, he meets an old man with wrinkled face and shaking legs, bent down, with white hair, his teeth gone, and his voice faltering. He asks again what all this means, and is told that this is what happens to all men; and that no one can escape old age, and that in the end all men must die. Thereupon he returns home to meditate on death, till at last a hermit appears,[47] and opens before his eyes a higher view of life, as contained in the Gospel of Christ.

No one, I believe, can read these two stories without feeling convinced that one was borrowed from the other; and as Fa Hian, three hundred years before John of Damascus, saw the towers which commemorated the three drives of Buddha still standing among the ruins of the royal city of Kapilavastu, it follows that the Greek father borrowed his subject from the Buddhist scriptures. Were it necessary, it would be easy to point out still more minute coincidences between the life of Josaphat and of Buddha, the founder of the Buddhist religion. Both in the end convert their royal fathers, both fight manfully against the assaults of the flesh and the devil, both are regarded as saints before they die. Possibly even a proper name may have been transferred from the sacred canon of the Buddhists to the pages of the Greek writer. The driver who conducts Buddha when he flees by night from his palace where he leaves his wife, his only son, and all his treasures, in order to devote himself to a contemplative life, is called Chandaka, in Burmese, Sanna.[48] The friend and companion of Barlaam is called Zardan.[49] Reinaud in his "Mmoire sur l'Inde," p.91 (1849), was the first, it seems, to point out that Youdasf, mentioned by Massoudi as the founder of the Saban religion, and Youasaf, mentioned as the founder of Buddhism by the author of the "Kitb-al-Fihrist," are both meant for Bodhisattva, acorruption quite intelligible with the system of transcribing that name with Persian letters. Professor Benfey has identified Theudas, the sorcerer in "Barlaam and Joasaph," with the Devadatta of the Buddhist scriptures.[50]

How palpable these coincidences are between the two stories is best shown by the fact that they were pointed out, independently of each other, by scholars in France, Germany, and England. Iplace France first, because in point of time M. Laboulaye was the first who called attention to it in one of his charming articles in the "Debats."[51] Amore detailed comparison was given by Dr. Liebrecht.[52] And, lastly, Mr. Beal, in his translation of the "Travels of Fa Hian,"[53] called attention to the same fact—viz., that the story of Josaphat was borrowed from the "Life of Buddha." Icould mention the names of two or three scholars besides who happened to read the two books, and who could not help seeing, what was as clear as daylight, that Joannes Damascenus took the principal character of his religious novel from the "Lalita Vistara," one of the sacred books of the Buddhists; but the merit of having been the first belongs to M.Laboulaye.

This fact is, no doubt, extremely curious in the history of literature; but there is another fact connected with it which is more than curious, and I wonder that it has never been pointed out before. It is well known that the story of "Barlaam and Josaphat" became a most popular book during the Middle Ages. In the East it was translated into Syriac(?), Arabic, Ethiopic, Armenian, and Hebrew; in the West it exists in Latin, French, Italian, German, English, Spanish, Bohemian, and Polish. As early as 1204, aKing of Norway translated it into Icelandic, and at a later time it was translated by a Jesuit missionary into Tagala, the classical language of the Philippine Islands. But this is not all, Barlaam and Josaphat have actually risen to the rank of saints, both in the Eastern and in the Western churches. In the Eastern church the 26th of August is the saints' day of Barlaam and Josaphat; in the Roman Martyrologium, the 27th of November is assigned to them.

There have been from time to time misgivings about the historical character of these two saints. Leo Allatius, in his "Prolegomena," ventured to ask the question, whether the story of "Barlaam and Josaphat" was more real than the "Cyropdia" of Xenophon, or the "Utopia" of Thomas More; but, en bon Catholique, he replied, that as Barlaam and Josaphat were mentioned, not only in the Mena of the Greek, but also in the Martyrologium of the Roman Church, he could not bring himself to believe that their history was imaginary. Billius thought that to doubt the concluding words of the author, who says that he received the story of "Barlaam and Josaphat" from men incapable of falsehood, would be to trust more in one's own suspicions than in Christian charity, which believeth all things. Bellarminus thought he could prove the truth of the story by the fact that, at the end of it, the author himself invokes the two saints Barlaam and Josaphat! Leo Allatius admitted, indeed, that some of the speeches and conversations occurring in the story might be the work of Joannes Damascenus, because Josaphat, having but recently been converted, could not have quoted so many passages from the Bible. But he implies that even this could be explained, because the Holy Ghost might have taught St. Josaphat what to say. At all events, Leo has no mercy for those "quibus omnia sub sanctorum nomine prodita male olent, quemadmodum de sanctis Georgio, Christophoro, Hippolyto, Catarina, aliisque nusquam eos in rerum natura extitisse impudentissime nugantur." The Bishop of Avranches had likewise his doubts; but he calmed them by saying: "Non pas que je veuille soustenir que tout en soit suppos: il y auroit de la tmerit desavouer qu'il y ait jamais e de Barlaam ni de Josaphat. Le tmoignage du Martyrologe, qui les met au nombre des Saints, et leur intercession que Saint Jean Damascene reclame la fin de cette histoire ne permettent pas d'en douter."[54]

With us the question as to the historical or purely imaginary character of Josaphat has assumed a new and totally different aspect. We willingly accept the statement of Joannes Damascenus that the story of "Barlaam and Josaphat" was told him by men who came from India. We know that in India a story was current of a prince who lived in the sixth century B.C., a prince of whom it was predicted that he would resign the throne, and devote his life to meditation, in order to rise to the rank of a Buddha. The story tells us that his father did everything to prevent this; that he kept him in a palace secluded from the world, surrounded by all that makes life enjoyable; and that he tried to keep him in ignorance of sickness, old age, and death. We know from the same story that at last the young prince obtained permission to drive into the country, and that, by meeting an old man, asick man, and a corpse, his eyes were opened to the unreality of life, and the vanity of this life's pleasures; that he escaped from his palace, and, after defeating the assaults of all adversaries, became the founder of a new religion. This is the story, it may be the legendary story, but at all events the recognized story of Gautama {S}kyamuni, best known to us under the name of Buddha.

If, then, Joannes Damascenus tells the same story, only putting the name of Joasaph or Josaphat, i.e., Bodhisattva, in the place of Buddha; if all that is human and personal in the life of St. Josaphat is taken from the "Lalita Vistara"—what follows? It follows that, in the same sense in which La Fontaine's Perrette is the Brahman of the Pacatantra, St. Josaphat is the Buddha of the Buddhist canon. It follows that Buddha has become a saint in the Roman Church; it follows that, though under a different name, the sage of Kapilavastu, the founder of a religion which, whatever we may think of its dogma, is, in the purity of its morals, nearer to Christianity than any other religion, and which counts even now, after an existence of 2,400 years, 455,000,000 of believers, has received the highest honors that the Christian Church can bestow. And whatever we may think of the sanctity of saints, let those who doubt the right of Buddha to a place among them read the story of his life as it is told in the Buddhist canon. If he lived the life which is there described, few saints have a better claim to the title than Buddha; and no one either in the Greek or in the Roman Church need be ashamed of having paid to Buddha's memory the honor that was intended for St. Josaphat, the prince, the hermit, and the saint.

History, here as elsewhere, is stranger than fiction; and a kind fairy, whom men call Chance, has here, as elsewhere, remedied the ingratitude and injustice of the world.


I am enabled to add here a short account of an important discovery made by Professor Benfey with regard to the Syriac translation of our Collection of Fables. Doubts had been expressed by Sylvestre de Sacy and others, as to the existence of this translation, which was mentioned for the first time in Ebedjesu's catalogue of Syriac writers published by Abraham Ecchellensis, and again later by Assemani ("Biblioth. Orient.," tom. iii. part 1, p.219). M.Renan, on the contrary, had shown that the title of this translation, as transmitted to us, "Kalilag and Damnag," was a guarantee of its historical authenticity. As a final k in Pehlevi becomes h in modern Persian, atitle such as "Kalilag and Damnag," answering to "Kalilak and Damnak" in Pehlevi, in Sanskrit "Kara{t}aka and Damanaka," could only have been borrowed from the Persian before the Mohammedan era. Now that the interesting researches of Professor Benfey on this subject have been rewarded by the happy discovery of a Syriac translation, there remains but one point to be cleared up, viz., whether this is really the translation made by Bud Periodeutes, and whether this same translation was made, as Ebedjesu affirms, from the Indian text, or, as M.Renan supposes, from a Pehlevi version. Iinsert the account which Professor Benfey himself gave of his discovery in the Supplement to the "Allgemeine Zeitung" of July 12, 1871, and I may add that both text and translation are nearly ready for publication (1875). The oldest MS. of the Pantschatantra.

GTTINGEN, July 6, 1871.

The account I am about to give will recall the novel of our celebrated compatriot Freytag ("Die verlorene Handschrift," or "The LostMS."), but with this essential difference, that we are not here treating of a creation of the imagination, but of a real fact; not of the MS. of a work of which many other copies exist, but of an unique specimen; in short, of the MS. of a work which, on the faith of one single mention, was believed to have been composed thirteen centuries ago. This mention, however, appeared to many critical scholars so untrustworthy, that they looked upon it as the mere result of confusion. Another most important difference is, that this search, which has lasted three years, has been followed by the happiest results: it has brought to light a MS. which, even in this century, rich in important discoveries, deserves to be ranked as of the highest value. We have acquired in this MS. the oldest specimen preserved to our days of a work, which, as translated into various languages, has been more widely disseminated and has had a greater influence on the development of civilization than any other work, excepting the Bible.

But to the point.

Through the researches, which I have published in my edition of the Pantschatantra,[55] it is known that about the sixth century of our era, awork existed in India, which treated of deep political questions under the form of fables, in which the actors were animals. It contained various chapters, but these subdivisions were not, as had been hitherto believed, eleven to thirteen in number, but, as the MS. just found shows most clearly, there were at least twelve, perhaps thirteen or fourteen. This work was afterwards so entirely altered in India, that five of these divisions were separated from the other six or nine, and much enlarged, whilst the remaining ones were entirely set aside. This apparently curtailed, but really enlarged edition of the old work, is the Sanskrit book so well known as the Pantschatantra, "The Five Books." It soon took the place, on its native soil, of the old work, causing the irreparable loss of the latter in India.

But before this change of the old work had been effected in its own land, it had, in the first half of the sixth century, been carried to Persia, and translated into Pehlevi under King Chosru Nuschirvan (531-579). According to the researches which I have described in my book already quoted, the results of which are fully confirmed by the newly discovered MS., it cannot be doubted that, if this translation had been preserved, we should have in it a faithful reproduction of the original Indian work, from which, by various modifications, the Pantschatantra is derived. But unfortunately this Pehlevi translation, like its Indian original, is irretrievably lost.

But it is known to have been translated into Arabic in the eighth century by a native of Persia, by name Abdallah ibn Almokaffa (d.760), who had embraced Islamism, and it acquired, partly in this language, partly in translations and retranslations from it (apart from the recensions in India, which penetrated to East, North, and South Asia,) that extensive circulation which has caused it to exercise the greatest influence on civilization in Western Asia, and throughout Europe.

Besides this translation into Pehlevi, there was, according to one account, another, also of the sixth century, in Syriac. This account we owe to a Nestorian writer, who lived in the thirteenth century. He mentions in his catalogue of authors[56] acertain Bud Periodeutes, who probably about 570 had to inspect the Nestorian communities in Persia and India, and who says that, in addition to other books which he names, "he translated the book 'Qallag and Damnag' from the Indian."

Until three years ago, not the faintest trace of this old Syrian translation was to be found, and the celebrated Orientalist, Silvestre de Sacy, in the historical memoir which he prefixed to his edition of the Arabic translation, "Calila and Dimna" (Paris, 1816), thought himself justified in seeing in this mention a mere confusion between Barzyeh, the Pehlevi translator, and a Nestorian Monk.

The first trace of this Syriac version was found in May, 1868. On the sixth of that month, Professor Bickell of Mnster, the diligent promoter of Syrian philology, wrote to tell me that he had heard from a Syrian Archdeacon from Urumia, Jochannn bar Bbisch, who had visited Mnster in the spring to collect alms, and had returned there again in May, that, some time previously, several Chaldan priests who had been visiting the Christians of St. Thomas in India, had brought back with them some copies of this Syriac translation, and had given them to the Catholic Patriarch in Elkosh (near Mossul). He had received one of these.

Though the news appeared so unbelievable and the character of the Syrian priest little calculated to inspire confidence in his statements, it still seemed to me of sufficient importance for me to ask my friends to make further inquiries in India, where other copies ought still to be in existence. Even were the result but a decided negative, it would be a gain to science. These inquiries had no effect in proving the truth of the archdeacon's assertions; but, at the same time, they did not disprove them. It would of course have been more natural to make inquiries among the Syrians. But from want of friends and from other causes, which I shall mention further on, Icould hardly hope for any certain results, and least of all, that if the MS. really existed, Icould obtain it, or a copy of it.

The track thus appeared to be lost, and not possible to be followed up, when, after the lapse of nearly two years, Professor Bickell, in a letter of February 22, 1870, drew my attention to the fact that the Chaldan Patriarch, Jussuf Audo, who, according to Jochannn bar Bbisch, was in possession of that translation, was now in Rome, as member of the Council summoned by the Pope.

Through Dr. Schll of Weimar, then in Rome, and one Italian savant, Signor Ignazio Guidi, Iwas put into communication with the Patriarch, and with another Chaldan priest, Bishop Qajjt, and received communications, the latest of June 11, 1870, which indeed proved the information of Jochannn bar Bbisch to be entirely untrustworthy; but at the same time pointed to the probable existence of a MS. of the Syriac translation at Mardn.

I did not wait for the last letters, which might have saved the discoverer much trouble, but might also have frustrated the whole inquiry; but, as soon as I had learnt the place where the MS. might be, Iwrote; May 6, 1870, exactly two years after the first trace of the MS. had been brought to light, to my former pupil and friend, Dr. Albert Socin of Basle, who was then in Asia on a scientific expedition, begging him to make the most careful inquiries in Mardn about this MS., and especially to satisfy himself whether it had been derived from the Arabian translation, or was independent of and older than the latter. We will let Dr. Socin, the discoverer of the MS., tell us himself of his efforts and their results.

"I received your letter of May 6, 1870, a few days ago, by Bagdad and Mossul, at Yacho on the Chabras. You say that you had heard that the book was in the library at Mardn. Imust own that I doubted seriously the truth of the information, for Oriental Christians always say that they possess every possible book, whilst in reality they have but few. Ifound this on my journey through the 'Christian Mountain,' the Tr el' 'Abedn, where I visited many places and monasteries but little known. Ionly saw Bibles in Estrangelo character, which were of value, nowhere profane books; but the people are so fanatical, and watch their books so closely, that it is very difficult to get sight of anything; and one has to keep them in good humor. Unless after a long sojourn, and with the aid of bribery, there can never be any thought of buying anything from a monastic library. Arrived in Mardn, Iset myself to discover the book. Inaturally passed by all Moslem libraries, as Syriac books only exist among the Christians. Isettled at first that the library in question could only be the Jacobite Cloister, 'Der ez Zfern,' the most important centre of the Christians of Mardn. Itherefore sent to the Patriarch of Diarbekir for most particular introductions, and started for 'Der ez Zfern,' which lies in the mountains, 5 hours from Mardn. The recommendations opened the library to me. Ilooked through four hundred volumes, without finding anything; there was not much of any value. On my return to Mardn, Iquestioned people right and left; no one knew anything about it. At length I summoned up courage one day, and went to the Chaldan monastery. The different sects in Mardn are most bitter against each other, and as I unfortunately lodged in the house of an American missionary, it was very difficult for me to gain access to these Catholics, who were unknown to me. Luckily my servant was a Catholic, and could state that I had no proselytizing schemes. After a time I asked about their books; Missals and Gospels were placed before me; Iasked if they had any books of Fables. 'Yes, there was one there.' After a long search in the dust, it was found and brought to me. Iopened it, and saw at the first glance, in red letters, 'Qallag and Damnag,' with the old termination g, which proved to me that the work was not translated from the Arabic 'Calila ve Dimnah.' You may be certain that I did not show what I felt. Isoon laid the book quietly down. Ihad indeed before asked the monk specially for 'Kalila and Dimna,' and with some persistency, before I inquired generally for books of fables; but he had not the faintest suspicion that the book before him was the one so eagerly sought after. After about a week or ten days, in order to arouse no suspicion, Isent a trustworthy man to borrow the book; but he was asked at once if it were for the 'Frngi den Prot' (Protestant), and my confidant was so good as to deny it, 'No, it was for himself.' Ithen examined the book more carefully. Having it safely in my possession, Iwas not alarmed at the idea of a little hubbub. Itherefore made inquiries, but in all secret, whether they would sell it. 'No, never,' was the answer I expected and received, and the idea that I had borrowed it for myself was revived. Itherefore began to have a copy made. But I was obliged to leave Mardn and even the neighboring Diarbekir, before I received the copy. In Mardn itself the return of the book was loudly demanded, as soon as they knew I was having it copied. Iwas indeed delighted when, through the kindness of friends, post tot discrimina rerum I received the book at Aleppo."

So far writes my friend, the fortunate discoverer, who, as early as the 19th of August, 1870, announced in a letter the happy recovery of the book. On April 20, 1871, he kindly sent it to me from Basle.

This is not the place to descant on the high importance of this discovery. It is only necessary to add that there is not the least doubt that it has put us in possession of the old Syriac translation, of which Ebedjesu speaks. There is only one question still to be settled, whether it is derived direct from the Indian, or through the Pehlevi translation? In either case it is the oldest preserved rendering of the original, now lost in India, and therefore of priceless value.

The fuller treatment of this and other questions, which spring from this discovery, will find a place in the edition of the text, with translation and commentary, which Professor Bickell is preparing in concert with Dr. Hoffman and myself.




In modern times, too, each poet or fabulist tells the story as seems best to him. Igive three recensions of the story of Perrette, copied from English schoolbooks.


A milkmaid who poised a full pail on her head, Thus mused on her prospects in life, it is said:— Let me see, I should think that this milk will procure One hundred good eggs or fourscore, to be sure. Well then, stop a bit, it must not be forgotten, Some of these may be broken, and some may be rotten; But if twenty for accident should be detached, It will leave me just sixty sounds eggs to be hatched. Well, sixty sound eggs—no, sound chickens I mean: Of these some may die—we'll suppose seventeen; Seventeen, not so many!—say ten at the most, Which will leave fifty chickens to boil or to roast. But then there's their barley, how much will they need? Why, they take but one grain at a time when they feed, So that's a mere trifle;—now then, let me see, At a fair market-price how much money there'll be. Six shillings a pair, five, four, three-and-six, To prevent all mistakes that low price I will fix; Now what will that make? Fifty chickens I said; Fifty times three-and-six?—I'll ask brother Ned. Oh! but stop, three-and-sixpence a pair I must sell them! Well, a pair is a couple; now then let us tell them. A couple in fifty will go (my poor brain), Why just a score times, and five pairs will remain. Twenty-five pairs of fowls, now how tiresome it is That I can't reckon up such money as this. Well there's no use in trying, so let's give a guess— I'll say twenty pounds, and it can be no less. Twenty pounds I am certain will buy me a cow, Thirty geese and two turkeys, eight pigs and a sow; Now if these turn out well, at the end of the year I shall fill both my pockets with guineas, 'tis clear. Forgetting her burden when this she had said, The maid superciliously tossed up her head, When, alas for her prospects! her milkpail descended, And so all her schemes for the future were ended. This moral, I think, may be safely attached— "Reckon not on your chickens before they are hatched!"



A country maid was walking with a pail of milk upon her head, when she fell into the following train of thoughts: "The money for which I shall sell this milk will enable me to increase my stock of eggs to three hundred. These eggs will bring at least two hundred and fifty chickens. The chickens will be fit to carry to market about Christmas, when poultry always bear a good price; so that by May-day I shall have money enough to buy me a new gown. Green?—let me consider—yes, green becomes my complexion best, and green it shall be. In this dress I will go to the fair, where all the young fellows will strive to have me for a partner; but I shall perhaps refuse every one of them, and with an air of distain toss from them." Charmed with this thought, she could not forbear acting with her head what thus passed in her mind, when down came the pail of milk, and with it all her fancied happiness.—From Guy's "British Spelling Book."


Alnasker was a very idle fellow, that would never set his hand to work during his father's life. When his father died he left him to the value of a hundred pounds in Persian money. In order to make the best of it he laid it out in glasses and bottles, and the finest china. These he piled up in a large open basket at his feet, and leaned his back upon the wall of his shop in the hope that many people would come in to buy. As he sat in this posture, with his eyes upon the basket, he fell into an amusing train of thought, and talked thus to himself: "This basket," says he, "cost me a hundred pounds, which is all I had in the world. Ishall quickly make two hundred of it by selling in retail. These two hundred shall in course of trade rise to ten thousand, when I will lay aside my trade of a glass-man, and turn a dealer in pearls and diamonds, and all sorts of rich stones. When I have got as much wealth as I can desire, Iwill purchase the finest house I can find, with lands, slaves, and horses. Then I shall set myself on the footing of a prince, and will ask the grand Vizier's daughter to be my wife. As soon as I have married her, Iwill buy her ten black servants, the youngest and best that can be got for money. When I have brought this princess to my house, Ishall take care to breed her in due respect for me. To this end I shall confine her to her own rooms, make her a short visit, and talk but little to her. Her mother will then come and bring her daughter to me, as I am seated on a sofa. The daughter, with tears in her eyes, will fling herself at my feet, and beg me to take her into my favor. Then will I, to impress her with a proper respect for my person, draw up my leg, and spurn her from me with my foot in such a manner that she shall fall down several paces from the sofa." Alnasker was entirely absorbed with his ideas, and could not forbear acting with his foot what he had in his thoughts; so that, striking his basket of brittle ware, which was the foundation of all his grand hopes, he kicked his glasses to a great distance into the street, and broke them into a thousand pieces.—"Spectator." (From the "Sixth Book," published by the Scottish School Book Association, W.Collins & Co., Edinburgh).


Pertsch, in Benfey's "Orient und Occident," vol. ii. p. 261. Here the story is told as follows: "Perche si conta che un certo pouer huomo hauea uicino a doue dormiua, un mulino & del buturo, & una notte tra se pensando disse, io uender questo mulino, & questo butturo tanto per il meno, che io comprer diece capre. Le quali mi figliaranno in cinque mesi altre tante, & in cinque anni multiplicheranno fino a quattro cento; Le quali barattero in cento buoi, & con essi seminar una cpagna, & insieme da figliuoli loro, & dal frutto della terra in altri cinque anni, sar oltre modo ricco, & far un palagio quadro, adorato, & comprer schiaui una infinit, & prender moglie, la quale mi far un figliuolo, & lo nominer Pancalo, & lo far ammaestrare come bisogna. Et se vedr che non si curi con questa bacchetta cos il percoter. Con che prendendo la bacchetta che gli era uicina, & battendo di essa il vaso doue era il buturo, elo ruppe, & fuse il buturo. Dop gli partor la moglie un figliuolo, ela moglie un d gli disse, habbi un poco cura di questo fanciullo o marito, fino che io uo e torno da un seruigio. La quale essendo andata fu anco il marito chiamato dal Signore della terra, & tra tanto auuenne che una serpe sal sopra il fanciullo. Et vna donzella uicina, corsa l l'uccise. Tornato il marito uide insanguito l'vscio, & pensando che costei l'hauesse ucciso, auanti che il uedesse, le diede sul capo, di un bastone, el'uccise. Entrato poi, & sano trouando il figliuolo, & la serpe morta, si fu grandemente pentito, & piⱥse amaramente. Cos adunque i frettolosi in molte cose errano." (Page 516.)


This and some other extracts, from books not to be found at Oxford, were kindly copied for me by my late friend, E.Deutsch, of the British Museum.

"Georgii Pachymeris Michael Palologus, sive Historia rerum a M.P. gestarum," ed. Petr. Possinus. Rom, 1666.

Appendix ad observationes Pachymerianas, Specimen Sapienti Indorum veterum liber olim ex lingua Indica in Persicam a Perzoe Medico: ex Persica in Arabicam ab Anonymo: ex Arabica in Grcam a Symeone Seth, aPetro Possino Societ. Iesu, novissime e Grca in Latinam translatus.

"Huic talia serio nuganti haud paulo cordatior mulier. Mihi videris, Sponse, inquit, nostri cujusdam famuli egentissimi hominis similis ista inani provisione nimis remotarum et incerto eventu pendentrum rerum. Is diurnis mercedibus mellis ac butyri non magna copia collect duobus ista vasis e terra coctili condiderat. Mox secum ita ratiocinans nocte quadam dicebat: Mel ego istud ac butyrum quindecim minimum vendam denariis. Ex his decem Capras emam. H mihi quinto mense totidem alias parient. Quinque annis gregem Caprarum facile quadringentarum confecero. Has commutare tunc placet cum bobus centum, quibus exarabo vim terr magnam et numerum tritici maximum congeram. Ex fructibus hisce quinquennio multiplicatis, pecunia scilicet tantus existet modus, ut facile in locupletissimis numerer. Accedit dos uxoris quam istis opibus ditissiman nansciscar. Nascetur mihi filius quem jam nunc decerno nominare Panealum. Hunc educabo liberalissime, ut nobilium nulli concedat. Qui si ubi adoleverit, ut juventus solet, contumacem se mihi prbeat, haud feret impune. Baculo enim hoc illum hoc modo feriam. Arreptum inter hc dicendum lecto vicinum baculum per tenebras jactavit, casuque incurrens in dolia mellis et butyri juxta posita, confregit utrumque, ita ut in ejus etiam os barbamque still liquoris prosilirent; ctera effusa et mixta pulveri prorsus corrumperentur; ac fundamentum spei tant, inopem et multum gementem momento destitueret." (Page 602.)


"Directorium Human Vit alias Parabol Antiquorum Sapientum," fol. s. l. e. a. k. 4(circ. 1480?): "Dicitque olim quidam fuit heremita apud quendam regem. Cui rex providerat quolibet die pro sua vita. Scilicet provisionem de sua coquina et vasculum de melle. Ille vero comedebat decocta, et reservabat mel in quodam vase suspenso super suum caput donec esset plenum. Erat autem mel percarum in illis diebus. Quadam vero die: dum jaceret in suo lecto elevato capite, respexit vas mellis quod super caput ei pendebat. Et recordatus quoniam mel de die in diem vendebatur pluris solito seu carius, et dixit in corde suo. Quum fuerit hoc vas plenum: vendam ipsum uno talento auri: de quo mihi emam decem oves, et successu temporis he oves facient filios et filias, et erunt viginti. Postea vero ipsis multiplicatis cum filiis et filiabus in quatuor annis erunt quatuor centum. Tunc de quibuslibet quatuor ovibus emam vaccam et bovem et terram. Et vacc multiplicabuntur in filiis, quorum masculos accipiam mihi in culturam terre, prter id quod percipiam de eis de lacte et lana, donec non consummatis aliis quinque annis multiplicabuntur in tantum quod habebo mihi magnas substantias et divitias, et ero a cunctis reputatus dives et honestus. Et edificabo mihi tunc grandia et excellentia edificia pre omnibus meis vicinis et consanguinibus, itaque omnes de meis divitiis loquantur, nonne erit mihi illud jocundum, cum omnes homines mihi reverentiam in omnibus locis exhibeant. Accipiam postea uxorem de nobilibus terre. Cumque eam cognovero, concipiet et pariet mihi filium nobilem et delectabilem cum bona fortuna et dei beneplacito qui crescet in scientia virtute, et relinquam mihi per ipsum bonam memoriam post mei obitum et castigabo ipsum dietim: si mee recalcitraverit doctrine; ac mihi in omnibus erit obediens, et si non: percutiam eum isto baclo et erecto baculo ad percutiendum percussit vas mellis et fregit ipsum et defluxit mel super caput ejus."


"Das Buch der Weisheit der alter Weisen," Ulm, 1415. Here the story is given as follows:—

"Man sagt es wohnet eins mals ein br[uo]der der dritten regel der got fast dienet, bei eins knigs hof, den versach der knig alle tag z[uo] auff enthalt seines lebens ein kuchen speiss und ein fleschlein mit honig. diser ass alle tag die speiss von der kuchen und den honig behielt er in ein irden fleschlein das hieng ob seiner petstat so lang biss es voll ward. Nun kam bald eine grosse ter in den honig und eins morgens fre lag er in seinem pett und sach das honig in dem fleschlein ob seinem haubt hangen do fiel ym in sein gedanck die tere des honigs und fieng an mit ihm selbs ze reden. wann diss fleschlein gantz vol honigs wirt so verkauff ich das umb fnff gldin, darum kauff ich mir zehen g[uo]ter schaff und die machen alle des jahrs lember. und dann werden eins jahrs zweintzig und die und das von yn kummen mag in zehen jaren werden tausent. dann kauff ich umb fier schaff ein ku und kauff dobei ochsen und ertrich die meren sich mit iren frchten und do nimb ich dann die frcht z[uo] arbeit der cker. von den andern ken und schaffen nimb ich milich und woll ee das andre fnff jar frkommen so wird es sich allso meren das ich ein grosse hab und reichtumb berkumen wird dann will ich mir selbs knecht und kellerin kauffen und hohe und hbsche bw ton. und darnach so nimm ich mir ein hbsch weib von einem edeln geschlecht die beschlaff ich mit kurtzweiliger lieb. so enpfecht sie und gebirt mir ein schn glckseligten sun und gottfrchtigen. und der wirt wachsen in lere und knsten und in weissheit. durch den lass ich mir einen g[uo]ten lemde nach meinem tod. aber wird er nit flgig sein und meiner straff nit achten so wolt ich yn mit meinem stecken ber sein rucken on erbermde gar hart schlahen. und nam sein stecken da mit man pflag das pet ze machen ym selbs ze zeigen wie frefelich er sein sun schlagen wlt. und schl[uo]g das irden fass das ob seinem haubt hieng z[uo] stcken dass ym das honig under sein antlit und in das pet troff und ward ym von allen sein gedencken nit dann das er sein antlit und pet weschen m[uo]st."


This translation has lately been published by Don Pascual de Gayangos in the "Biblioteca de Autores Espaoles," Madrid, 1860, vol. li. Here the story runs as follows (p.57):—

"Del religioso que verti la miel et la manteca sobre su cabeza.

"Dijo la mujer: 'Dicen que un religioso habia cada dia limosna de casa de un mercader rico, pan manteca miel e otras cosas, et comia el pan lo l condesaba, et ponia la miel la manteca en un jarra, fasta quel a finch, et tenia la jarra colgada la cabecera de su cama. Et vino tiempo que encareci la miel la manteca, et el religioso fabl un dia consigo mismo, estando asentado en su cama, et dijo as: Vender cuanto est en esta jarra por tantos maraveds, compar con ellos diez cabras, et emprearse-han, parirn cabo de cinco meses; et fizo cuenta de esta guisa, et fall que en cinco aos montarian bien cuatrocientas cabras. Des dijo: Venderlas-he todas, et con el precio dellas comprar cien vacas, por cada cuatro cabezas una vaca, haber simiente sembrar con los bueyes, et aprovecharme-he de los becerros et de las fembras de la leche manteca, de las mieses habr grant haber, et labrar muy nobles casas, comprar siervos siervas, et esto fecho casarme-he con una mujer muy rica, fermosa, de grant logar, emprearla-he de fijo varon, nacer complido de sus miembros, et criarlo-he como fijo de rey, castigarlo-he con esta vara, si non quisiere ser bueno obediente'. E l deciendo esto, alz la vara que tenia en la mano, et feri en la olla que estaba colgada encima dl, quebrla, cayle la miel la manteca sobre su cabeza," etc.

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