Vedic Hymns, Part II (SBE46), by Hermann Oldenberg , at sacred-texts.com
1. With reverence I shall worship thee who art long-tailed like a horse, Agni, the king of worship.
2. May he, our son of strength 1, proceeding on his broad way, the propitious, become bountiful to us.
3. Thus protect us always, thou who hast a full life, from the mortal who seeks to do us harm 1, whether near or afar.
4. And mayest thou, O Agni, announce to the gods this our newest efficient Gâyatra song.
5. Let us partake of all booty that is highest and that is middle (i. e. that dwells in the highest and in the middle world); help us to the wealth that is nearest.
6. O god with bright splendour, thou art the distributor. Thou instantly flowest for the liberal giver in the wave of the river, near at hand.
7. The mortal, O Agni, whom thou protectest in battles, whom thou speedest in the races 1, he will command constant nourishment:
8. Whosoever he may be, no one will overtake him, O conqueror (Agni)! His strength 2 is glorious.
9. May he (the man), known among all tribes 3, win the race with his horses; may he with the help of his priests become a gainer.
10. O Garâbodha 1! Accomplish this (task) for every house 2: a beautiful song of praise for worshipful Rudra 3.
11. May he, the great, the immeasurable, the smoke-bannered, rich in splendour, incite us to (pious) thoughts and to strength.
12. May he hear us, like the rich lord of a clan, the banner of the gods, on behalf of our hymns, Agni with bright light.
13. Reverence to the great ones, reverence to the lesser ones! Reverence to the young, reverence to the old 1! Let us sacrifice to the gods, if we can. May I not, O gods, fall as a victim to the curse of my better 2.
The hymn is ascribed to Sunahsepa (see note on I, 26). The metre is Gâyatrî; the last verse is Trishtubh.
The laws of arrangement of the Samhitâ show that this hymn, which has thirteen verses and follows after a hymn of ten verses belonging to the same deity, must be divided into a number of minor hymns. On the question of this division some further light is thrown by the metre. The first six verses and then again the verses 10–12 are composed in the trochaic form of the Gâyatrî metre; of the verses 7–9, on the other hand, not a single Pâda shows the characteristics of that metre. I believe, therefore, that the verses 1–6 form one hymn by themselves, or possibly two hymns of three verses each. Then follow two hymns: verses 7–9, 10–12. As to verse 13, which is composed in a different metre, it is difficult to determine its exact nature. It may be a later addition: though in that case
we shall hardly be able to explain why it was placed at the end of the hymns addressed to Agni, to which god it contains no reference whatever. Or it may form part of the hymn 10–12: in that case we should have to consider this whole hymn, which would then violate the rules of arrangement, as an addition to the original collection.
We may add that the Sâma-veda gives the first twelve verses of this Sûkta so as to form four independent hymns: 1–3 = SV. II, 984–6; 4. 6. 5 = SV. II, 847–9; 7–9 = SV. II, 765–7; 10–12 = SV. II, 1013–15. Besides, verse 1 is found in SV. I, 17. Verse 4 = SV. I, 28; TÂr. IV, 11, 8. Verse 7 = VS. VI, 29; TS. I, 3, 13, 2; MS. I, 3, 1. Verse 10 = SV. I, 15. Comp. Bergaigne, Recherches sur l’histoire de la Samhitâ, II, pp. 7–8; H. O., Prolegomena, 225–226.
Note 1. It requires a stronger belief in the infallibility of Vedic text tradition than I possess, not to change sávasâ into sávasah. I do not think that I, 62, 9 (sánemi sakhyám svapasyámânah sûnûh dâdhâra sávasâ sudámsâh) furnishes a sufficient argument against this conjecture.
Note 1. Grassmann reads aghaâyóh for the sake of the metre; Prof. Max Muller proposes ăghâyô̆h. I think that the missing syllable should be gained by disyllabic pronunciation of -ât in mártyât or rather mártiât. Comp. my Prolegomena 185 and the quotations given there in note 1.
Note 1. It is not my intention to enter here into a new discussion on so frequently discussed a word as vâga. I have translated it in verses 7, 9 by 'race,' in verse 8 by 'strength.'
Note 2. The expression used in verses 7 and 8 should be compared especially with VII, 40, 3. sáh ít ugráh astu marutah sáh sushmî´ yám mártyam prishadasvâh ávâtha, utá îm agníh sárasvatî gunánti ná tásya râyáh paryetâ´ asti.
Note 3. Visvakarshani, a frequent epithet of Agni, here refers to the mortal hero protected by Agni; comp. I, 64, 14 (vol. xxxii, p. 108); X, 93, 10 (visvákarshani srávah).
Note 1. I think that Ludwig is right in taking Garâbodha for a proper name.
Note 2. Visé-vise may possibly depend on yagñíyâya, so that we should have to translate: 'Administer this task: a beautiful song of praise to Rudra who is worshipful for every house.'
Note 3. Rudra is here a designation of Agni, as the next verses show. Comp. Pischel-Geldner, I, 56.
Note 1. The word âsiná, 'old,' occurring only here, is doubtful. In III, 1, 6; IV, 33, 3; X, 39, 4, sana or sanaya stands in contrast with yuvan. Shall we conjecture námah â´ sánebhyah?'
Note 2. The last Pâda of this verse, mâ´ gyâ´yasah sámsam â´ vrikshi devâh ('May I not, O gods, neglect the praise of the greatest,' Muir, V, 12), offers some difficulty. It may be doubted whether â´ vrikshi belongs to â-vrig or to â-vrask.
Let us see what would be the meaning of the passage, if we were to decide for â-vrig. VIII, 101, 16 the cow speaks: devî´m devébhyah pári eyúshîm gâ´m â´ mâ avrikta mártyah dabhráketâh, 'Me the goddess, the cow, who has come hither from the gods, the weak-minded mortal has appropriated.' Satapatha Brâhmana XIV, 9, 4, 3. ya evam vidvân adhopahâsam karaty â sa strînâm sukritam vriṅkte ऽ tha ya idam avidvân adhopahâsam karaty âsya striyah sukritam vriñgate, 'He who knowing this, &c., appropriates the good works of the women. But the women appropriate the good works of him who without knowing this,' &c. In Rig-veda X, 159, 5 also we probably have a form of â-vrig. There we find the triumphant utterance
of a wife who has gained superiority over her fellow-wives: â avriksham anyâsâm várkah, 'I have won for myself the splendour of the other wives.' We may conclude from these passages that our Pâda, if â´ vrikshi is derived from â-vrig, would mean: 'May I not draw on myself the curse of my better.'
On the other hand we have a great number of passages—they have been collected by Ludwig, IV, 249 seq.—in which the verb â-vrask appears. Referring the reader for fuller information to Ludwig, I content myself here with selecting one or two of these passages. Taitt. Samh. II, 4, 11, 4. devatâbhyo vâ esha â vriskyate yo yakshya ity uktvâ na yagate. In translating this we should remember that vrask means 'to cut down;' â-vrask, therefore, must be 'to cut down so that the object reaches a certain destination.' I translate therefore: 'He who says, "I shall sacrifice," and does not sacrifice, is cut down for the deities,'—i. e. he is dedicated or forfeited to the deities and is thus destroyed (comp. a different explanation of â-vrask by Delbrück, Altindische Syntax, 143). In other passages not the dative but the locative is used for indicating the being to whom somebody is forfeited; see Atharva-veda XII, 4, 6. 12. 26; XV, 12, 6. 10.
A Rig-vedic passage containing â-vrask (with the dative) is X, 87, 18. â´ vriskyantâm áditaye durévâh, 'May the evil-doers be forfeited to Aditi.'
Several times we find the first person aor. med. in the same form as in our passage, â vrikshi; see, for instance, the Nivid formula to the Visve devâh, Sâṅkhâyana Srautasûtra VIII, 21. In this Nivid, the text of which as given by Hillebrandt is not quite identical with that of Ludwig, we read according to Hillebrandt's edition: mâ vo devâ avisasâ mâ visasâyur â vrikshi. This mâ … â vrikshi looks quite similar to our passage. The same may be said of Taittirîya Samhitâ I, 6, 6, 1. yat te tapas tasmai te mâvrikshi. Considering such passages it is difficult not to believe that it is the verb â vrask which we have before us in our verse. It must be admitted indeed that the accusative
samsam does not agree with the construction of the later Vedic passages. Can the accusative stand in the ancient language of the Rig-veda in the same connection in which we have found the dative and the locative? So that â-vrask (in the middle or passive) with the accusative would mean: to be cut down in the direction towards another being, i. e. being forfeited to that being? In that case the translation of our passage would be: 'May I not, O gods, fall as a victim to the praise (or rather, to the curse) of my better.' If this explanation of the accusative is thought too bold, we should propose to correct the text so as to get a dative or, which would suit the metre better, a locative: mâ´ gyâ´yasah sámsâya (or sámse) â´ vrikshi devâh.