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The Zend Avesta, Part III (SBE31), L.H. Mills, tr. [1886], at

p. viii p. ix


IT would savour of affectation for me to say very much by way of meeting the necessary disadvantages under which I labour as in any sense a successor of Professor Darmesteter. It is sufficient to state that I believe myself to be fully aware of them, and that I trust that those who study my work will accord me the more sympathy under the circumstances. Professor Darmesteter, having extended his labours in his University, found his entire time so occupied that he was obliged to decline further labour on this Series for the present. My work on the Gâthas had been for some time in his hands 1, and he requested me, as a friend, to write the still needed volume of the translation of the Avesta. Although deeply appreciating the undesirableness of following one whose scholarship is only surpassed by his genius, I found myself unable to refuse.

As to my general treatment, experts will not need to be informed that I have laboured under no common difficulties. On the one hand, it would be extremely imprudent for any scholar not placed arbitrarily beyond the reach of criticism, to venture to produce a translation of the Yasna, Visparad, Âfrînagân, and Gâhs, without defensive notes. The smallest freedom would be hypercriticised by interested parties, and after them condemned by their followers. On the other hand, even with the imperfect commentary which accompanies the Gâthas here, the generous courtesy of the Delegates of the Clarendon Press has been too abundantly drawn upon. One does not expect detailed commentaries in this Series. My efforts have therefore been chiefly confined to forestalling the possible assaults of unfair or forgetful critics, and so to spare myself, in so far as it may be possible, the necessity for painful rejoinder.

p. x

To print a commentary on the Yasna, &c., which would be clear to non-specialists, and at the same time interesting, would occupy many times more space than could be here allowed. In treating the Gâthas however, even at the risk of too great extension, I have endeavoured to atone for the necessary obscurity of notes by ample summaries, and a translation supported by paraphrase, as such matter has more prospect of being generally instructive than a commentary which must necessarily have remained obscure. These summaries should also be read with the more indulgence, as they are the first of their kind yet attempted, Haug's having been different in their scope. With regard to all matters of mere form, I expect from all sides a similar concession. It will, I trust, be regarded as a sufficient result if a translation, which has been built up upon the strictest critical principles, can be made at all readable. For while any student may transcribe from the works of others what might be called a translation of the Yasna, to render that part of it, termed the Gâthas, has been declared by a respected authority, 'the severest task in Aryan philology 1.' And certainly, if the extent of preparatory studies alone is to be the gauge, the statement cited would not seem to be an exaggeration. On mathematical estimates the amount of labour which will have to be gone through to become an independent investigator, seems to be much greater than that which presents itself before specialists in more favoured departments. No one should think of writing with originality on the Gâthas, or the rest of the Avesta, who had not long studied the Vedic Sanskrit, and no one should think of pronouncing ultimate opinions on the Gâthas, who has not to a respectable degree mastered the Pahlavi commentaries. But while the Vedic, thanks to the labours of editor and lexicographers, has long been open to

p. xi

hopeful study, the Pahlavi commentaries have never been thoroughly made out, and writer after writer advances with an open avowal to that effect; while the explanation, if attempted, involves questions of actual decipherment, and Persian studies in addition to those of the Sanskrit and Zend; and the language of the Gâthas requires also the study of a severe comparative philology, and that to an unusual, if not unequalled, extent.

The keen observer will at once see that a department of science so circumstanced may cause especial embarrassment. On the one hand, it is exposed to the impositions of dilettanti, and the hard working specialist must be content to see those who have advanced with studies one half, or less than one half completed, consulted as masters by a public which is only ignorant as regards the innermost laws of the science; and, on the other hand, the deficiencies of even the most laborious of specialists must leave chasms of imperfection out of which the war of the methods must continually re-arise. In handling the Gâthas especially, I have resorted to the plan of giving a translation which is inclusively literal 1, but filled out and rounded as to form by the free use of additions. As the serious student should read with a strong negative criticism, he may notice that I strive occasionally after a more pleasing effect; but, as we lose the metrical flow of the original entirely, such an effort to put the rendering somewhat on a level with the original in this respect, becomes a real necessity. I have, however, in order to guard against misleading the reader, generally, but not always, indicated the added words by parenthetical curves. That these will be considered unsightly and awkward, I am well aware. I consider them such myself, but I have not felt at liberty to refrain from using them. As the Gâthas are disputed word for word, I could not venture to resort to free omissions; and what a translation would be without either additions or omissions, may be

p. xii

seen from the occasional word for word renderings given. Beyond the Gâthas, I have omitted the curves oftener. I have in the Gâthas, as elsewhere, also endeavoured to impart a rhythmical character to the translation, for the reason above given, and foreign readers should especially note the fact, as well as my effort to preserve the colour of original expressions, otherwise they will inevitably inquire why I do not spare words. To preserve the colour and warmth, and at the same time to include a literal rendering, it is impossible to spare words and syllables, and it is unwise to attempt it. Non-specialists may dislike the frequency of alternative renderings as leaving the impression of indecision, while, at the same time, a decision is always expressed by the adoption of a preferred rendering. The alternatives were added with the object of showing how nearly balanced probabilities may be, and also how unimportant to the general sense the questions among specialists often are.

In transliterating, I have followed the plan used in the preceding volumes to avoid confusion, but since the first volume was published, great progress has been made in this particular, and in a separate work I should have adopted a different arrangement 1. As to other unimportant variations from the preceding volumes in matters of usage and fashion, I trust that no one will dwell on them for a moment 2. As regards the usual and inevitable differences of opinion on more serious questions, see the remarks in the Introduction 3. I would also state that I have often avoided rendering identical passages in identical language, as irksome both to reader and writer. I have also not invariably cited the obviously preferable variations of text which have been adopted, and which are so familiar to the

p. xiii

eye in Westergaard, Spiegel, and Geldner. The texts of Westergaard have been followed necessarily as to extent of matter, as this work is printed before the completion of Geldner's text. The oft-recurring formulas and prayers at the ends of chapters and sections have been left unrendered, and finally for the most part unnoticed, by striking out the useless notes. Citations of the Pahlavi and Sanskrit translations have been given occasionally in full, in order to meet the extraordinary statements which sometimes appear to the effect that they have not been vital to the interpretation of the Gâthas. But by giving these extracts and by frequently citing the Pahlavi, Neryosangh, and the Persian, I have perhaps exposed myself to the misconception that I am an extreme advocate of the so-called tradition 1, whereas all conscientious critics will acknowledge that I follow the indications of these works with more reserve than any writer who professes to have studied them; in fact I may well apprehend censure from 'traditionalists' in this particular. These Asiatic renderings are cited by me the more fully when those who neglect them agree with their indications; and they are therefore cited to show that, whereas those most opposed to them are nevertheless forgetfully indebted to them in nearly every line, therefore in all cases of great difficulty they should be studied as an absolute necessity before rash conjectures are adopted. For it is exactly where we are all most in doubt, that their indications become of most worth, when rationally considered. These translations should be examined for the relics of the truth, the hints, and traces of original explanations, which may most abound where they are themselves most faulty as translations. I therefore never search them for exact reproductions. But the citations which I give

p. xiv

here constitute only a very small fraction of those needed. An argument should be built up on the fullest statements of the circumstances, elucidated with scientific completeness. This alone would have any prospect of obliging investigators to acknowledge the truth; for not only inertia and prejudice are arrayed on the other side, but even interest. This much is said of the Pahlavi translations; for Ner. is properly cited only as a translation of a translation, and, as such, of the highest authority 1; so of the Persian.

Zendists will observe that I by no means abandon explanations merely because they are old, a practice which seems almost the fashion. I, however, fully approve of testing and assailing again and again all suggestions nether old or new. I would simply assert that, while the tasks before us remain still so very extensive, it would be better for scholars to exercise their sagacity upon passages which call loudly for wise conjecture, leaving those which are clear as they stand, for later assaults. It will be seen that I myself by no means approve of refraining from conjecture 2, but I would only in all humility insist that we should not abandon ourselves to unprepared conjecture. As is known 3, I have attempted the present rendering after more than ten years of close labour, and after a full translation

p. xv

of the Pahlavi and Sanskrit translations, together with an edition of the Zend, Pahlavi, Sanskrit, and Persian texts of the Gâthas. It is proper to add that for the purpose of keeping the judgment free from prejudice, and open to honest conviction from the influence of the Rig-veda, I have followed the practice for a number of years of transcribing the Hymns of the Veda into English in word for word written studies, having already so treated by far the greater part of them; some of these are in curtailed statement, others needlessly full. I have also, on the other hand, turned a large portion of the Gâthas into Vedic Sanskrit. (This, however, is practically a universal custom, as all words are compared with the Vedic, so far as analogies exist between the Gâthas and the Riks.) If therefore the opposed schools regard me as erring in too implicit a reliance on the hints of the Asiatics on the one side, or in too decided a tendency to read the Gâthic as Vedic on the other, they may be assured that I have not erred from interest or prejudice. That my results will please both parties it is folly to expect, in fact perfection in the rendering of the Gâthas (as of some other ancient works) is for ever unattainable, and not to be looked for; moreover, it would not be recognised, if attained; for no writer, whosoever he may be, can produce a rendering of the Gâthas without meeting the assaults of ignorance or design. However imperfect my results may be supposed to be, it is to be hoped that they will contribute some little toward establishing a convention among scholars as to what the Gâthic and Zend writings mean; meanwhile it is confidently expected that they will fulfil the requirements of the science of comparative theology. Whatever may be the ultimate truth as to questions of close detail, the Yasna, as well as the rest of the Avesta, is clear as to its creed.

My list of obligations is a long one, in fact so long that I fear I can express but little compliment in naming advisers, as I have made it a practice to consult all available persons, as well as books. Making one exception, I will therefore reserve to myself the pleasure of recalling them to a future occasion.

p. xvi

It is sufficient to say here that while I follow a new departure in the treatment of the Asiatic commentaries, yet the most prominent writers of the opposing schools have courteously favoured me with their advice. Availing myself of the exception named, I would take the liberty to express my gratitude, here especially, to Dr. E. W. West, our first authority on Pahlavi, for placing at my disposal various readings of the Pahlavi text of the Yasna, of which we have hitherto only possessed a single MS. in the Pahlavi character, that contained in the oldest Zend writing, the Codex numbered five, in the Library of Copenhagen. The variations referred to were transcribed by Dr. West from the venerable MS., the hereditary property of Dastur Dr. Gâmâspgi Minokihargi Asana of Bombay, and written only nineteen (or twenty-two) days later than that numbered five in the Library of Copenhagen. By this generous loan I have been enabled to print elsewhere the first text of the Pahlavi of the Gâthas yet edited with comparison of MSS., likewise also for the first time translated, in its entirety, into a European language. For this Dr. West, during an extended correspondence, has furnished me with information on the Pahlavi not obtainable elsewhere, together with corrections and revisions. There is another eminent friend whose sacrifices of time and labour on my behalf have been exceptional, but I will defer the mention of Zend scholars.

I take this opportunity to express my acknowledgments to Professor Dr. von Halm of the Hof- and Staatsbibliothek, in Munich, for allowing me the free use of Codex 12b, of Haug's Collection, both at Stuttgart and Hanover; also to Professor Dr. Wilmanns of Göttingen; Geheimrath Dr. Forstemann of Leipsic; and Herr Rath Bodemann of Hanover, for the loan of a large number of valuable works from their respective public libraries, often, with great liberality, renewed.


HANOVER, February, 1886.


ix:1 See the Revue Critique, Nov. 26, 1883.

x:1 'Es bilden diese fünf Gâthâs, die insgesammt metrisch abgefasst sind, den sprachlich wichtigsten, aber auch den weitaus schwierigsten teil des ganzen Avesta, ja man kann sagen, ohne dass man fürchten muss der übertreibung geziehen zu werden, sie bilden den schwierigsten teil der ganzen indogermanischen philologie.' Altiranisches Verbum; von C. Bartholomae; Einleitung, s. 3.

xi:1 That is approximately so; absolute literalness, even when treated as I propose, would be unmanageably awkward. In another work, I give a word for word rendering of the Gâthas.

xii:1 Chiefly as to ; but I write .

xii:2 As in Âramaiti, Vohu Manah, &c. I also write Neryosangh, and in a few places Gâtha(â), Ahunavaiti(î), &c. I regret not to have written Mazdâh everywhere.

xii:3 Where I differ from Professor Darmesteter, I desire to be considered as merely proposing alternative renderings. I have therefore omitted a mass of references to the previous volumes as unnecessary.

xiii:1 The relics of a 'tradition' direct from the fountain-head are present in the Asiatic commentaries, and also the relics of a tradition from later, and, as it were, modern scholarship; and, lastly, there are also present the direct results of an ancient scholarship; but to speak of the Pahlavi translations as 'tradition,' is merely to us a convenient phrase. I know of no scholar who supposes these commentaries to be in a simple sense 'tradition' from the earliest Zend writers.

xiv:1 It is to be hoped that our occupations are sufficiently serious to allow us to pass over the imperfections of Neryosangh's Sanskrit style. He was especially cramped in his mode of expressing himself by a supposed necessity to attempt to follow his original (which was not the Gâthic but the Pahlavi) word for word. His services were most eminently scholarly, and, considering his disadvantages, some of the greatest which have been rendered. Prof. R. v. Roth and Dr. Aurel Stein have kindly transcribed for me valuable variations.

xiv:2 It will be regarded, however, as especially desirable that, in a report from a specialist to the learned public in general, the texts should on no account be violated by conjectural improvements where they are at all translatable; alternatives are therefore added. As has been remarked by a recent reviewer on the new version of the Scriptures, there is scarcely a line of very ancient writings which scholars are not tempted to amend; but such emendations are seldom agreed to among specialists. A first translation could always be attempted with the texts as they stand.

xiv:3 See the Athenæum, April 12, 1884; and the Academy, Sept. 13, 2884. On the entire subject in its connection with the Gnostic and modern philosophies, any special labours have included a much longer period of time than that mentioned.

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