On the Migration of Fables, by Max Müller, , at sacred-texts.com
Scanned, proofed and formatted by John Bruno Hare at sacred-texts.com, December 2009. This text is in the public domain in the US because it was published prior to 1923.
"Count not your chickens before they be hatched," is a well-known proverb in English, and most people, if asked what was its origin, would probably appeal to La Fontaine's delightful fable, La Laitière et le Pot au Lait. 1 We all know Perrette, lightly stepping along from her village to the town, carrying the milk-pail on her head, and in her day-dreams selling her milk for a good sum, then buying a hundred eggs, then selling the chickens, then buying a pig, fattening it, selling it again, and buying a cow with a calf. The calf frolics about, and kicks up his legs—so does Perrette, and, alas! the pail falls down, the milk is spilt, her riches gone, and she only hopes when she comes home that she may escape a flogging from her husband.
Did La Fontaine invent this fable? or did he merely follow the example of Sokrates, who, as we know from the Phædon, 2 occupied himself in prison, during the last days of his life, with turning into verse some of the fables, or, as he calls them, the myths of Æsop.
La Fontaine published the first six books of his fables in 1668, 1 and it is well known that the subjects of most of these early fables were taken from Æsop, Phædrus, Horace, and other classical fabulists, if we may adopt this word "fabuliste," which La Fontaine was the first to introduce into French.
In 1678 a second edition of these six books was published, enriched by five books of new fables, and in 1694 a new edition appeared, containing one additional book, thus completing the collection of his charming poems.
The fable of Perrette stands in the seventh book, and was published, therefore, for the first time in the edition of 1678. In the preface to that edition La Fontaine says: "It is not necessary that I should say whence I have taken the subjects of these new fables. I shall only say, from a sense of gratitude, the largest portion of them to Pilpay the Indian sage."
If, then, La Fontaine tells us himself that he borrowed the subjects of most of his new fables from Pilpay, the Indian sage, we have clearly a right to look to India in order to see whether, in the ancient literature of that country, any traces can be discovered of Perrette with the milk-pail.
Sanskrit literature is very rich in fables and stories; no other literature can vie with it in that respect; nay, it is extremely likely that fables, in particular animal fables, had their principal source in India. In the sacred literature of the Buddhists, fables held a most prominent place. The Buddhist preachers, addressing themselves chiefly to the people, to the untaught,
the uncared for, the outcast, spoke to them, as we still speak to children, in fables, in proverbs and parables. Many of these fables and parables must have existed before the rise of the Buddhist religion; others, no doubt, were added on the spur of the moment, just as Sokrates would invent a myth or fable whenever that form of argument seemed to him most likely to impress and convince his hearers. But Buddhism gave a new and permanent sanction to this whole branch of moral mythology, and in the sacred canon, as it was settled in the third century before Christ, many a fable received, and holds to the present day, its recognized place. After the fall of Buddhism in India, and even during its decline, the Brahmans claimed the inheritance of their enemies, and used their popular fables for educational purposes. The best known of these collections of fables in Sanskrit is the Pañkatantra, literally the Pentateuch, or Pentamerone. From it and from other sources another collection was made, well known to all Sanskrit scholars by the name of Hitopadesa, i.e., Salutary Advice. Both these books have been published in England and Germany, and there are translations of them in English, German, French, and other languages. 1
The first question which we have to answer refers to the date of these collections, and dates in the history
of Sanskrit literature are always difficult points.
Fortunately, as we shall see, we can in this case fix the date of the Pañkatantra at least, by means of a translation into ancient Persian, which was made about 550 years after Christ, though even then we can only prove that a collection somewhat like the Pañkatantra must have existed at that time; but we cannot refer the book, in exactly that form in which we now possess it, to that distant period.
If we look for La Fontaine's fable in the Sanskrit stories of the Pañkatantra, we do not find, indeed, the milkmaid counting her chickens before they are hatched, but we meet with the following story:—
"There lived in a certain place a Brâhman, whose name was Svabhâvakripana, which means 'a born miser.' He had collected a quantity of rice by begging (this reminds us somewhat of the Buddhist mendicants), and after having dined off it, he filled a pot with what was left over. He hung the pot on a peg on the wall, placed his couch beneath, and looking intently at it all the night, he thought, 'Ah, that pot is indeed brimful of rice. Now, if there should be a famine, I should certainly make a hundred rupees by it. With this I shall buy a couple of goats. They will have young ones every six months, and thus I shall have a whole herd of goats. Then, with the goats, I shall buy cows. As soon as they have calved, I shall sell the calves. Then, with the cows, I shall buy buffaloes; with the buffaloes, mares. When the mares have foaled, I shall have plenty of horses; and when I sell them, plenty of gold. With that gold I shall get a house with four wings. And then a Brâhman will come to my house, and will give me his beautiful daughter, with a large dowry. She will have a son, and I shall call him Somasarman. When he is old enough to be danced on his father's knee, I shall sit with a book at the back of the stable, and while I am reading the boy will see me, jump from his mother's lap, and run towards me to be danced on my knee. He will come too near the horse's hoof, and, full of anger, I shall call to my wife, "Take the baby; take him!" But she, distracted by some domestic work does not hear me. Then I get up, and give her
such a kick with my foot.' While he thought this, he gave a kick with his foot, and broke the pot. All the rice fell over him, and made him quite white. Therefore, I say, 'He who makes foolish plans for the future will be white all over, like the father of Somasarman.'" 1
I shall at once proceed to read you the same story, though slightly modified, from the Hitopadesa. 2 The Hitopadesa professes to be taken from the Pañkatantra and some other books; and in this case it would seem as if some other authority had been followed. You will see, at all events, how much freedom there was in telling the old story of the man who built castles in the air.
"In the town of Devîkotta there lived a Brâhman of the name of Devasarman. At the feast of the great equinox he received a plate full of rice. He took it, went into a potter's shop, which was full of crockery, and, overcome by the heat, he lay down in a corner and began to doze. In order to protect his plate of rice, he kept a stick in his hand, and began to think, 'Now, if I sell this plate of rice, I shall receive ten cowries (kapardaka). I shall then, on the spot, buy pots and plates, and after having increased my capital again and again, I shall buy and sell betel nuts and dresses till I become enormously rich. Then I shall marry four wives, and the youngest and prettiest of the four I shall make a great pet of. Then the other wives will be so angry, and begin to quarrel. But I shall be in a great rage, and take a stick, and give them a good flogging.' . . . . While he said this, he flung his stick away; the plate of rice was smashed to pieces, and many of the pots in the shop were broken. The potter, hearing the noise, ran into the shop, and when he saw his pots broken, he gave the Brâhman a good scolding, and drove him out of his shop. Therefore I say, 'He who rejoices over plans for the future will come to grief, like the Brâhman who broke the pots.'"
In spite of the change of a Brahman into a milkmaid, no one, I suppose, will doubt that we have here
in the stories of the Pañkatantra and Hitopadesa the first germs of La Fontaine's fable. 1 But how did that fable travel all the way from India to France? How did it doff its Sanskrit garment and don the light dress of modern French? How was the stupid Brahman born again as the brisk milkmaid, "cotillon simple et souliers plats?"
It seems a startling case of longevity that while languages have changed, while works of art have perished, while empires have risen and vanished again, this simple children's story should have lived on, and maintained its place of honor and its Undisputed sway in every school-room of the East and every nursery of the West. And yet it is a case of longevity so well attested that even the most skeptical would hardly venture to question it. We have the passport of these stories viséed at every place through which they have passed, and, as far as I can judge, parfaitement en règle. The story of the migration of these Indian fables from East to West is indeed wonderful; more wonderful and more instructive than many of these fables themselves. Will it be believed that we, in this Christian country and in the nineteenth century, teach our children the first, the most important lessons of worldly wisdom, nay, of a more than worldly wisdom, from books borrowed from Buddhists and Brahmans, from heretics and idolaters, and that wise words, spoken a thousand, nay, two thousand years ago, in a lonely village of India, like precious seed scattered broadcast all over the world, still bear fruit a hundred and a thousand-fold in that soil which is the most precious before God and man, the soul of a child? No lawgiver, no philosopher,
has made his influence felt so widely, so deeply, and so permanently as the author of these children's fables. But who was he? We do not know. His name, like the name of many a benefactor of the human race, is forgotten. We only know he was an Indian …—and that he lived at least two thousand years ago.
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, a matter 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 Æsopian myth or fable,—κατὰ τὸν Αἰσώπου μῦθον, 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 Pañkatantra (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 Pañkatantra 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. I am 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." 1 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 Ahanâ, whether La Belle au Bois was the mother of two children, called L’Aurore and Le Jour, 2 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 Æsopian 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 1 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. I shall 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, I doubt 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, 1 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, 1 Loiseleur Deslongchamps, 2 and Professor Benfey. 3 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.
[paragraph continues] 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. 1 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 Barzûyeh, the physician of Khosru Nushir van, 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 Barzûyeh. 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
[paragraph continues] Persian physician to India. It has the sanction of Firdúsi, in the great Persian epic, the Shah Nâmeh, and it is considered by some 1 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. 2 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 Farési, 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 Pañkatantra, 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 Pañkatantra, 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 Pañkatantra 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, 'I will 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, 'a hundred black cattle, in the proportion of a bull or a cow for every four goats. I will 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, I will marry the handsomest woman I can find, who, in clue 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, I shall 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. 1 At these words he suddenly raised the band which held the stick towards the jar, and broke it, and the contents ran down upon his head and face." 1 …
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 Khâlifs 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." 1 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: 'I shall 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, I shall become rich in five years, and build a house with four wings, 1 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, I shall 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. 2 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. 3 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, I do 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, a learned 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 and 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 Humanæ Vitæ," it became very soon a popular work with the select reading public of the thirteenth century. 1 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 Würtemberg, 2 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. 3 A Spanish translation, founded both on the German and the Latin texts, appeared at Burgos in 1493; 4 and from these different sources flowed in the sixteenth century the Italian
renderings of Firenzuola (1548) 1 and Doni (1552). 2 As these Italian translations were repeated in French 3 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. A Persian 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 "Anvári Suhaili." 4 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
The second book is a translation of the second part of Doni's Filosofia Morale.
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 Lumières, ou, la Conduite des Rois, composé 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 Lumières," 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, a third 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) a Spanish translation of our fables, called "Calila é Dymna." 1 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 Béziers 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 "Æsopus alter." 2
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, 3 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, a stern 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 à la farce du pot au laict duquel un cordavanier se faisoit riche par resverie, puis le pot cassé, 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, a step 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, 1 and
afterwards repeated in 1816. I shall 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." 1
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. I shall, 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 corners. We find her as Dona Truhana, in the famous "Conde Lucanor," the work of the Infante Don Juan Manuel, 1 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, a book which we know that La Fontaine was well acquainted with. We find her after La Fontaine in all the languages of Europe. 2
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 Barzûyeh from India to the court of
Click to enlarge
OLD COLLECTION OF INDIAN FABLES.
[paragraph continues] 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 Pañkatantra, 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. 1
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. I have already alluded to the powerful influence which Arabic literature exercised on Western Europe through Spain. Again, a most
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 Calla 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 (πρωτοσύμβουλος) 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." 1 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, I must 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, 1 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—eg., Basilius and Gregorius Nazianzenus. And no one but Joannes could have taken long passages from his own works without saying where he borrowed them. 2
The story of "Barlaam and Joasaph"—or, as he is more commonly called, Josaphat—may be told in a few words: "A king 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. A Christian 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 Chaldæan, 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. I shall mention one only which has found its way into almost every literature of the world: 1—
"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, a black 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 these 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. 1
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. 1 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, 2 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. I shall read you a short account of the three drives: 3—
"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.
[paragraph continues] 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, I go 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 he made captive forever!' Then, betraying for the first time his intentions, the young prince said, 'Let us turn back, I must 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, 1 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 then 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. 2 The friend and companion of Barlaam is called Zardan. 3 Reinaud
in his "Mémoire sur l’Inde," p. 91 (1849), was the first, it seems, to point out that Youdasf, mentioned by Massoudi as the founder of the Sabæan religion, and Youasaf, mentioned as the founder of Buddhism by the author of the "Kitáb-al-Fihrist," are both meant for Bodhisattva, a corruption 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. 1
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. I place 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 "Débats." 2 A more detailed comparison
was given by Dr. Liebrecht. 1 And, lastly, Mr. Beal, in his translation of the "Travels of Fa Hian," 2 called attention to the same fact—viz., that the story of Josaphat was borrowed from the "Life of Buddha." I could 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, a King 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
[paragraph continues] 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 "Cyropædia" 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 Menæa 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 supposé: il y auroit de la témerité à desavouer qu’il y ait jamais eû de Barlaam ni de Josaphat. Le témoignage du Martyrologe, qui les met au nombre des Saints, et leur intercession que Saint Jean Damascene reclame à la fin de cette histoire ne permettent pas d’en douter." 1
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, a sick 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 Sâkyamuni, 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 Pañkatantra, 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.
139:1 La Fontaine, Fables, livre vii., fable 10.
139:2 Phædon, 61, 5: Μετὰ δὲ τὸν θεόν, ἐννοήσας, ὅτι τὸν ποιητὴν δέοι, εἴπερ μέλλοι ποιητὴς εἶναι, ποιεῖν μυθους, ἀλλ᾽ οὐ λόγους, καὶ αὐτὸς οὐκ ἦ μυθολογικός, διὰ ταῦτα δὴ οὑς προχείρους εἶχον καὶ ἠπιστάμην μύθους τοὺς Αἰσώπου, τούτων ἐποίησα οἶς πρώτοις ἐνέτυχου.
140:1 Robert, Fables Inédites, des XIIe, XIIIe, et XIVe Siècles; Paris, 1825; vol. i. p. ccxxvii.
141:1 Paṇtschatantrum sine Quinquepartitum, edidit I. G. L. Kosegarten. Bonnæ, 1848.
Pantschatantra, Fünf Bücher indischer Fablen, aus dem Sanskrit übersetzt. Von Th. Benfey. Leipzig, 1859.
Hitopadesa, with interlinear translation, grammatical analysis, and English translation, in Max Müller's Handbooks for the study of Sanskrit. London, 1864.
Hitopadesa, eine alte indische Fabelsammlung aus dem Sanskrit zum ersten Mal in das Deutsche übersetzt. Von Max Muller. Leipzig, 1844.
143:1 Pañkatantra, v. 10.
143:2 Hitopadesa, ed. Max Muller, p. 120; German translation, p. 159.
144:1 Note A, page 188.
148:1 Hottentot Fables and Tales, by Dr. W. H. I. Bleek, London, 1894, p. 19.
148:2 Academy, vol. v. p. 548.
149:1 Die Märchen des Siddhi-kür, or Tales of an Enchanted Corpse, translated front Kalmuk into German by B. Jülg, 1866. (This is based on the Vetâlapañkavimsati.) Die Geschichte des Ardschi-Bordschi Chan, translated from Mongolian by Dr. B. Jülg, 1868. (This is based on the Simhâsanadvâtrimsati.) A Mongolian translation of the Kalila and Dimnah, is ascribed to Mélik Said Iftikhar eddin Mohammed ben Abou Nasr, who died AD. 1280. See Barbier de Meynard, "Description de la Ville de Kazvin," Journal Asiatique, 1857, p. 284; Lancereau, Pantchatantra, p. xxv.
150:1 Plato's expression, "As I have put on the lion's skin" (Kratylos, 411), seems to show that he knew the fable of an animal or a man having assumed the lion's skin without the lion's courage. The proverb ὄνος παρὰ Κυμαίους seems to be applied to men boasting before people who have no means of judging. It presupposes the story of a donkey appearing in a lion's skin.
A similar idea is expressed in a fable of the Pañkatantra (IV. 8) where a dyer, not being rich enough to feed his donkey, puts a tiger's skin on him. In this disguise the donkey is allowed to roam through all the cornfields without being molested, till one day he see a female donkey, and begins to bray. Thereupon the owners of the field kill him.
In the Hitopadesa (III. 3) the same fable occurs, only that there it is the keeper of the field who on purpose disguises himself as a she-donkey, and when he hears the tiger bray, kills him.
In the Chinese Avadânas, translated by Stanislas Julien (vol. ii. p. 59), the donkey takes a lion's skin and frightens everybody, till he begins to bray, and is recognized as a donkey.
In this case it is again quite clear that the Greeks did not borrow their fable and proverb from the Pañkatantra; but it is not so easy to determine positively whether the fable was carried from the Greeks to the East, or whether it arose independently in two places.
151:1 Calilah et Dimna, ou, Fables de Bidpai, en Arabe, précédées d’un Mémoire sur l’origine de ce livre. Par Sylvestre de Sacy. Paris, 1816.
151:2 Loiseleur Deslongchamps, Essai sur les Fables Indiennes, et sur leur Introduction en Europe. Paris, 1838.
151:3 Pantschatantra, Fünf Bücher indischer Fabeln, Märchen und Erzählungen, mit Einleitung. Von. Th. Benfey. Leipzig, 1859.
152:1 See Weil, Geschichte der Chalifen, vol. ii. p. 84.
153:1 Benfey, p. 60.
153:2 Cf. Barlaam et Joasaph, ed. Boissonade, p. 37.
155:1 Kalila and Dimna; or, the Fables of Bidpai, translated from the Arabic. By the Rev. Wyndham Knatchbull, A. M. Oxford, 1819.
156:1 Specimen Sapientiæ Indorum Veterum, id est Liber Ethico-Politicus pervetustus, dictus Arabice Kalilah ve Dinanah, Græce Stephanites et Ichnelates, nunc primum Græce ex MS. Cod. Halsteiniano prodit cum versione Latina, opera S. G. Starkii. Berolini, 1697.
157:1 This expression, a four-winged house, occurs also in the Pañkatantra. As it does not occur in the Arabic text, published by De Sacy, it is clear that Symeon must have followed another Arabic text in which this adjective, belonging to the Sanskrit, and no doubt to the Pehlevi text, also, had been preserved.
157:2 Note B, p. 190.
157:3 Note C, p. 191.
158:1 Note D, p. 192.
158:2 Note E, p. 193.
158:3 Benfey, Orient and Occident, vol. i. p. 138.
158:4 Ibid. vol. i. p. 501. Its title is: "Exemplario contra los engaños y peligros del mundo," ibid. pp. 167, 168.
159:1 Discorsi degli animali, di Messer Agnolo Firenzuola, in prose di M. A. F. (Fiorenza, 1548.)
159:2 La Moral Filosophia del Doni, tratta da gli antichi scrittori. Vinegia, 1552.
Trattati Diversi di Sendebar Indian, filosopho morale. Vinegia, 1552. P. 65. Trattato Quarto.
A woman tells her husband to wait till her son is born, and says:—
"Stava uno Romito domestico ne i monti di Brianza a far penitenza e teneva alcune cassette d’ api per suo spasso, e di quelle a suoi tempi ne cavava il Mele, e di quello ne vendeva alcuna parte tal volta per i suoi besogni. Avenue che un’ anno ne fu una gran carestia, e egli attendeva a conservarlo, e ogni giorno lo guardava mille volte, e gli pareva cent’ anni ogni hora, che e gli indugiava a empierlo di Mele," etc.
159:3 Le Plaisant et Facétieux Discours des Animaux, novellement traduict de Tuscan en François. Lyon, 1556, par Gabriel Cottier.
Deux Livres de Filosofie Fabuleuse, le Premier Pris des Discours de M. Ange Firenzuola, le Second Extraict des Traictez de Sandebar Indien, par Pierre de La Rivey. Lyon, 1579.
159:4 The Anvar-i Suhaili, or the Lights of Canopus, being the Persian version of the Fables of Pilpay, or the Book, Kalílah and Damnah, rendered into Persian by Husain Vá’iz U’l-Káshifi, literally translated by E. B. Eastwick. Hertford, 1854.
161:1 Note F, p. 194.
161:2 Note G, p. 194.
161:3 Note H, p. 196.
162:1 Dialogues of Creatures moralysed, sm. 4to, circ. 1517. It is generally attributed to the press of John Rastell, but the opinion of Mr. Haslewood, p. 163 in his preface to the reprint of 1816, that the book was printed on the continent, is perhaps the correct one. (Quaritch's Catalogue, July, 1870.)
163:1 The Latin text is more simple: "Unde cum quedam domina dedisset ancille sue lac ut venderet et lac portaret ad urbem juxta fossatum cogitare cepit quod de p̃cio lactis emerit gallinam qua faceret pullos quos auctos in gallinas venderet et porcellos emeret eosque mutaret in oves et ipsas in boves. Sic que ditata contraheret cum aliquo nobili et sic gloriabatur. Et cum sic gloriaretur et cogitaret cum quanta gloria duceretur ad illum virum super equum dicendo gio gio cepit pede percutere terram quasi pungeret equum calcaribus. Sed tunc lubricatus est pes ejus et cecidit in fossatum effundendo lac. Sic enim non habuit quod se adepturam sperabat." Dialogus Creaturarum optime moralizatus (ascribed to Nicolaus Pergaminus, supposed to have lived in the thirteenth century). He quotes Elynandus, in Gestis Romanorum. First edition, "per Gerardum leeu in oppido Goudensi inceptum; munere Dei finitus est, Anno Domini, 1480."
164:1 Note I, p. 197.
164:2 My learned German translator, Dr. Felix Liebrecht, says in a note: "Other books in which our story appears before La Fontaine are Esopus, by Burkhard Waldis, ed. H. Kurz, Leipzig, 1862, ii. 177; note to Des Bettlers Kaufmannschaft; and Oesterley, in Kirchoff's Wendunmuth, v. 44, note to i. 171, Vergebene Anschleg reich zuwerden (Bibl. des liter. Vereins zu Stuttg. No. 99).
166:1 Ricerche intorno al Libro di Sindibad. Milano, 1869.
168:1 The Greek text was first published in 1832 by Boissonade, in his Anecdota Græca, vol. iv. The title, as given in some MSS. is: Ἱστορία ψυχωφελὴς ἐκ τῆς ἐνδοτέρας τῶν Αἰθιόπων χώρας, τῆς Ἰνδῶν λεγομένης, πρὸς τὴν ἁγίαν πόλιν μετενεχθεῖσα διὰ Ἰωάννου τοῦ μοναχοῦ [other MSS. read, συγγραφεῖσα παρὰ τοῦ ἁγίου παρτὸς ἡμῶν Ἰωάννου τοῦ Δαμασκηνοῦ], ἀνδρὸς τιμίου καὶ ἐναρέτου μονῆς τοῦ ἁγίου Σάβα· ἐν ᾖ ὁ βίος Βαρλαάμ καὶ Ἰωάσαφ τῶν ἀοιδίμων καὶ μακαρίων. Joannes Monachus occurs as the name of the author in other works of Joannes Damascenus. See Leo Allatius, Prolegomena, p L., in Damasceni Opera Omnia. Ed. Lequien, 1748. Venice.
At the end the author says: Ἐως ὦδε τὸ πέρας τοῦ παρόντος λόγου, ὃν κατὰ δύναμιν ἐμὴν γεγράφηκα, καθὼς ἀκήκοα παρὰ τῶν ἀψευδῶς παραδεδωκων μοι τιμίων ἀνδρῶν. Γένοιτο δὲ ὴμᾶς, τοὺς ὰναγινώσκοντάς τε καὶ ἀκούοντας τὴν ψυχωφελῆ διήγησιν ταύτην, τῆς μερίδος ἀξιωθῆναι τῶν εὐαρεστησάντων τῷ κυριῳ εὐχαῖς καὶ πρεσβείαις Βαρλαὰμ καὶ Ἰωάσαφ τῶν μακαρίων, περὶ ὦν ἡ διήγησις. See also Wiener, Jahrbücher, vol. lxiii. pp. 44-83; vol. lxxii. pp. 274-288; vol. lxxiii. pp. 176–202.
169:1 Littré, Journal des Savants, 1865, p. 337.
169:2 The Martyrologium Romanum, whatever its authority may be, states distinctly that the acts of Barlaam and Josaphat were written by Sanctus Joannes Damascenus. "Aped Indos Persis finitimos sanctorum Barlaam et Josaphat, quorum actus mirandos sanctus Joannes Damascenus conscripsit." See Leonis Allatii Prolegomena, in Joannis Damasceni Opera, p. 170 ed. Lequien, vol. L p. xxvi. He adds: "Et Gennadius Patriarcha per Conch. Florent. cap. 5: οὐχ ἦττον δὲ καὶ ὁ Ἰωάννης ο μέγας τοῦ Δαμασκοῦ ὀφθ αλμὸς ἐν τῷ βίῳ Βαρλαὰμ καὶ Ἰωσάφατ τῶν Ἰνδῶν μαρτυρεῖ λέγων."
170:1 The story of the caskets, well known from the Merchant of Venice, occurs in Barlaam and Josaphat, though it is used there for a different purpose.
171:1 Cf. Benfey, Pantschatantra, vol. i. p. 80; vol. ii. p. 528; Les Avadanas, Contes et Apologues indiens, par Stanislas Julien, i. pp. 132, 191 Gesta Romanorum, cap. 168; Homáyun Nameh, cap. iv.; Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie, pp. 758, 759; Liebrecht, Jahrbücher für Rom. and Engl. Literatur, 1860.
172:1 Lalita Vistara, ed. Calcutt., p. 120.
172:2 Ibid., p. 225.
172:3 See M. M.'s Chips from a German Workshop, Amer. ed., vol. i. p. 207.
175:1 Minayeff, Mélanges Asiatiques, vi. 5, p. 584, remarks: "According to a legend in the Mahâvastu of Yasas or Yasoda (in a less complete form to be found in Schiefner, Eine tibetische Lebensbeschreibung Sâkyamunis, p. 247; Hardy, Manual of Buddhism, p. 187; Bigandet, The Life or Legend of Gaudama, p. 113), a merchant appears in Yosoda's house, the night before he has the dream which induces him to leave his paternal house, and proclaims to him the true doctrine.
175:2 Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. iii. p. 21.
175:3 In some places one might almost believe that Joannes Damascenus did not only hear the story of Buddha, as he says, from the mouth of people p. 176 who had brought it to him from India, but that he had before him the very text of the Lalita Vistara. Thus in the account of the three or four drives we find indeed that the Buddhist canon represents Buddha as seeing on three successive drives, first an old, then a sick, and at last a dying man, while Joannes makes Joasaph meet two men on his first drive, one maimed, the other blind, and an old man, who is nearly dying, on his second drive. So far there is a difference which might best be explained by admitting the account given by Joannes Damascenus himself, viz: that the story was brought from India, and that it was simply told him by worthy and truthful men. But, if it was so, we have here another instance of the tenacity with which oral tradition is able to preserve the most minute points of the story. The old man is described by a long string of adjectives both in Greek and in Sanskrit, and many of them are strangely alike. The Greek γέρων, old, corresponds to the Sanskrit gîrna; πεπαλαιώμενος, aged, is Sanskrit vriddha; ἐρρικνώμενος τὸ πρόσωπον, shriveled in his face, is balînikitakâya, the body covered with wrinkles; παρείμενος τὰς κνήμας weak in his knees, is pravedhayamânah sarvângapratyangaih, trembling in all his limbs; συγκεκυφώς, bent, is kubga: πεπολιώμενος, gray, is palitakesa; ἐστερήμενος τοὺς ὀδόντας, toothless, is khandadanta; ἐγκεκομένα λαλῶν, stammering, is khurakhurâvasaktakantha.
176:1 Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, vol. xxiv p. 480.
176:2 Débats, 1859, 21 and 26 Juillet.
177:1 Die Quellen des Barlaam and Josaphat, in Jahrbuch für roman. and engl. Litteratur, vol. ii. p. 314, 1860.
177:2 Travels of Fah-hian and Sung-gun, Buddhist Pilgrims from China to India. (400 AD. and 518 AD.) Translated from the Chinese by Samuel Beal. London, Trübner & Co. 1869.
179:1 Littré, Journal Les Savants, 1865, p. 337.