Изображения страниц

two thousand four hundred years old, “ are certainly a modern compilation from valuable materials, which," says he, “I am afraid no longer exist.” An astronomical observation of the heliacal rising of Canopus, mentioned in two of the Puranas, puts this beyond doubt." * Mr. Bentley reasons in a similar manner, and reduces the Puranas, so closely connected with the date of the Veda, to an origin equally recent. “ It must be evident,” says he, “ that none of the modern romancés, commonly called the Puranas, at least in the form they now stand, are older than 684 years, but that some of them are the compilations of still later times.”+ Even Mr. Coleman gives countenance to the same opinion, in respect to one of the Puranas, the Sri,” or Surya Bhagavata, containing the life of Krishna. I “ I am inclined,” says he,“ to adopt an opinion, supported by many learned Hindus, who consider the celebrated Sri Bhegavata, as the work of a grammarian, supposed to have lived about six hundred years ago.” While, to come once more to the Vedas themselves, Mr. Wilkins, in his Preface to the Gita, or Songs of Krishna, observes that Krishna, throughout the whole of these, makes mention of three Vedas only, being the first three in their present order; the fourth, hereby proved to be a work even posterior to the Gita, makes mention of Krishna himself. « On this being remarked,” says Mr. Wilkins, " to some Pundits who assisted in the translation, they expressed great astonishment at it, as it had escaped all the numerous commentators on the Gita.”

The result of the whole is, that nothing is more uncertain than the chronology of the most esteemed sacred books of the Hindus: that the subject requires further investigation; but that every step we proceed in the progress of inquiry strips off some claim or other to a very high antiquity; that the Puranas seem fairly brought down to the twelfth or thirteenth century of the Christian æra; the fourth, and indeed all the Vedas, to a period very considerably within its limit; and, if the conjecture of Sir William Jones and Mr. Colebrook be correct, that these are anterior to the Puranas by not more than six hundred years, to the sixth or seventh century since the birth of our Saviour, instead of their ascending sixteen centuries antecedently to this epoch; and consequently that the respective inventors of Buddhism, Brahmism, and Lamism, whose names are not to be found in the Vedas (not even in the AtHerva-Veda, or lowest of the whole), must have flourished far subsequently to the dissemination of Christianity in Asia; many centuries, indeed, subsequently to the establishment of the Indo-Syrian hierarchy, on the coast of Malabar; and may,

Asiat. Res. vol. v. p. 244. + Id. vol, viii. p. 240. | Id. vol. viii. p. 482.

therefore, have had an opportunity of poaching upon its doctrines and ritual, and of corrupting and re-modelling them at their Option.

With respect to the high antiquity of the Sanscrit language, in which the Hindu Sastras, or holy writings, are for the most part composed, it will not bear investigation for a moment. The whole of its arrangement, the extent and systematic order of its alphabet, the regular construction of its grammar, the classical polish of its style, give intuitive evidence that it could never have been the medium of oral communication in rude and barbarous ages; whilst the three earliest Vedas, or the first three books that pass under this name, are composed, not in the Sanscrit, but in the Pali tongue, a much simpler and more ancient language, the foundation of most of the dialects of eastern and western Asia, and the immediate parent of the refined and classical Sanscrit.

The subject is highly curious, and has carried us farther than we had intended. To our own country, however, it is not only curious, but very important, as being closely connected with the almost immeasurable range and growing interests of the British empire in the east. In the volume before us, that part of it which relates to the Tibetian religion is made of prominent importance, and extends to not less than nine chapters. Dr. Clarke, in his short residence among the Kalmucks, had no opportunity of examining into the nature of their religious service, notwithstanding an ardent desire which he seems to have felt so to do. He speaks of the high veneration which they manifest for their religious writings, and the great beauty of their sacred character. With much difficulty he succeeded in obtaining a transcript of a few passages; and adds, “ I have used every endeavour, but in vain, since my return to England, to get this curious manuscript translated; nor has it been as yet decided in what language it is written.”*

We shall now accompany M. Von Klaproth in his description of the Caucasian chain, the wandering tribes that lie scattered over its sides, and the means by which Russia has contrived to wrest them from the alternating grasp of Persia and the Porte. Georgia, or, as it is here written, Ġeorgiewsk, is the present capital of the Caucasian government.

“ It is a small, tolerably well fortified place on the left bank of the river, called by the Russians Podkumok or Podkumka, by the Tscherkessians Gumeh, and which was formerly known also by the name of the Little Kuma. On the east and south side of the fortress the declivity is very abrupt, so that you can descend it but in very few places,

Travels, part I. p. 936.

and with great inconvenience. Coarse sand and clay make their appearance; and in the sand are sometimes found small muscles either petrified or decayed. On the north side the town adjoins the steppe, and has an imperceptible descent towards the Cossack stanitza, about a werst distant. The ramparts of Georgiewsk itself, which forms a pentagon, though but of earth, are strongly fortified with cannon.Within these few years, however, solid stone bastions and considerable works have been begun on the west side, where it is not defended by the precipice, and these will render the place impregnable against any attack of the mountaineers, who have neither artillery nor the least notion of the operations of a siege. The materials for building are furnished by the lime-stone quarries of the neighbouring Besch-tau.

“ Georgiewsk, now the capital of the Caucasian government, was founded in 1777, on the formation of the Caucaso-Ckuban line. It is built in a regular and cheerful manner, but the houses in general are only of slight boarding, and you very rarely find one that is solid enough to secure its inhabitants in winter from the unpleasant and piercing winds of the steppe. The adjacent country is very agreeable, and the whole plain beyond the Podkuma overgrown with wood. Though there are no morasses in the vicinity, and the air is dry and clear, yet the climate of this place powerfully affects both strangers and natives, and towards the end of summer and in autumn produces such frequent fevers that there is scarcely a house which has not at least one patient confined with that disease.

" From this place you have a view of the whole chain of the Caucasus, as far as the Lesgian mountains; a spectacle which perhaps cannot be paralleled except in the steppes of Middle Asia, for in no other part of the old world is a plain so vast as the steppe of the Kuma bounded by such a lofty and extensive range. The Caucasus apparently forms two chains running parallel to each other, the highest covered with snow, and the lower or northern, which is commonly called the Black Mountains. The former are denominated by the Tartars Ckar Daghlar, but by the Tscherkessians, from Kasibeg to the Elbrus, Kurdsh; and the Black Mountains are named by the Russians Tschernoi Gory, in Tartar Ckara-Daghlar, and in Tscherkessian Kusch'ha.

“ The loftiest mountains in the snowy chain are the Kasi-beg and the Elbrus; but the latter is by far the highest, and little inferior in elevation to Mont Blanc. It has neyer yet been ascended, and the Caucasians have a notion that no person can reach its summit without the special permission of the Deity. They likewise relate that here Noah first grounded with the ark, but was driven further to Ararat. The ascent from the south side would perhaps be the most practicable, did not the mountaineers throw innumerable obstructions in the way of such an enterprise. Its foot is totally uninhabited, and surrounded by marshes produced in summer by the melting of the snows. The Russians call this mountain Schat-gora; the Ckaratschai, Mingitau; the Tartars, Jalduss or Elbrus; the Armenians, Jalbus; the Tscher. kessians, Uasch'hamako, that is, the Gracious or Holy Mountain ; the Abasses, Orfi If'gub; and the Ssuanes, Passa. All the mountaineers haye abundance of tales to relate concerning the evil spirits and dæmons who dwell upon it; whose prince they call Dshin Pudischah, and of whose annual meetings they have invented as many fables as the North Germans respecting the assemblies of the witches on the Brocken.

The other lofty mountain, which nearly terminates to the east the snowy range visible from Georgiewsk, is the Kasibeg, which in Georgian is named Mqinwari, but by the Ossetes Urss-choch, or the White Mountain.

“ Respecting the origin and signification of the name Caucasus, there is a wide difference of opinion. The most ancient explanation of it we find in Pliny, who derives this word from the Scythian Graucasus, which is said to signify nive candidus. As, however, this etymology is not confirmed by any known language, and it is extremely improbable that the whole family of words to which it belongs should have been lost, it seems to carry very little weight, and to be equally unfounded with many others set up by the ancients. Kaukas, which is a foreign term in these mountains, may perhaps come from the Persian appellation Koh-Ckáf, which signifies the Mountains of Ckaf*. The more ancient form of this word was probably Ckafssp or Ckassp, with the termination Assp, which was common in the Median dialects. From this ancient form the Caspian Sea and the nation of the Caspians probably received their name; for, according to the testimony of Eratosthenes (in Strabo), the people inhabiting the Caucasus called it the Caspian mountains-Kuomio opos. In Moses of Chorene it is named Kowkass and Kaukass; and in the History of Georgia, compiled by the direction of King Wachtang the Fifth +, from the archives of the convents of Mzchetha and Gelathi, the most ancient boundaries of this country are thus described:-On the east it has the Gurganian Sea (Gurganissa), now called the Sea of Gilan ; on the west the Pontic, otherwise the Black Sea; on the south the Orethian Mountains (Orethissa), situated in the country of the Kurds (Khurthia) towards Media; and on the north the Kawkasian Mountains (Khawk'assia), which are called by the Persians Jalbus." In the epitome of the history of the country, written by the Georgian prince Davith, and printed at Tiflis in 1798, the Caucasus is likewise styled from ancient authorities K'awk'ass. « The country. belonging to him (to Thargamoss) was bounded on the east by the Gurganian Sea (that is, the Caspian) ; on the west by the Black Sea (which is the Pontus); on the south by the Aressian mountains (those of Kurthistan); and on the north by the K’awk'asian 1.”

“ All this sufficiently proves the antiquity of the name of Caucasus among the neighbouring nations; nevertheless at present it is but little used by the Asiatics, who commonly call this mountain by the Tartar name of Jalbus, that is, Ice-mane. În Tartar the appellation is properly Jalbus thaghlar, but among the Nogays I have likewise heard

* In Pehlwi, the ancient language of Media or Parthia, a mountain was called Kof, consequently the Caucasus was styled Kof Ckaf, or Kof Ckasp.

t Wachtang Mechathi Lewanssa tse, Wachtang the Fifth, son of Lewan, reigned from 1703 to 1722, in Kharthli, which we erroneously call Karduel or Kartalinia,

Schemok'lebuli Istoria ssa Kharthuhloissa, Brief History of Georgia, $ 4. p. 84.

it pronounced Jildis thaghlar, in which case it signifies Mountains of the Stars. By the Turks the Caucasus is named Ckaf Thagi, Mountains of Ckaf. The Georgians usually employ the Tartar term, and say Jalbusiss Mtha, Mount Jalbus. The Armenians call it Jalbusi-ssar, but the name of Kawkas also is still retained by them.”

There are various other names for the Caucasian mountains, but of little importance to the geographer or paleologist; and only proving the political changes by which the country has been distinguished since the period of the Greek writers, and how numerous the tribes, and how diversified as to their dialects, by which it is at present inhabited.

In Chapter XIX. is a kind of diplomatic document, furnished for the present work by Count John Potocki, intended as a justification as well as explanation of the part which the court of St. Petersburg has been progressively taking during very nearly the last three centuries, in the general scramble for Asiatic territory between the three rival powers of Persia, Russia, and Turkey. The survey commences with the year 1555, in which the Tscherkessian (Circassian) Princes of Besch-tau, or the five Mountains, are said to have 6 submitted with their whole country, and all their subjects for ever to the Russian sceptre," during the reign of the Czar Iwan Bassiliowik.

For this, however, we must refer our readers to the volume itself, where the subject is followed up at great length. The intriguing and more adventurous spirit of the court of St. Petersburg has proved in every instance too powerful for the tardy and vacillating councils of the rival governments; and it has met with far more difficulty in reducing to a settled state, and a regular subjection, the roving and independent dispositions of the native tribes, over whom to the present hour it maintains a mere nominal supremacy, than in bringing the wild surface of their country, province after province, within the political boundary of the Russian empire.

On the banks of the Bibola, or Bywalla, as it is sometimes written, are said to be the ruins of what once constituted one of the chief cities of the Huns, a people that at one time shook Europe, Asia, and even Africa, with the terror of their name, and dazzled the world with the extent and splendour of their conquests; but whose fall was as rapid as their rise, and is covered with a veil of darkness that no inquiry has been able to penetrate. These ruins have been sought after with great attention by every Caucasian traveller; and the vestiges of Madshar, for such is the name of the city, have been placed by different persons, in as many different situations as the remains of old Troy. We do not know that M. Von Klaproth has been much more successful than his predecessors, especially than Güldenstädt and Gmelin:

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »