« ZurückWeiter »
which appear judicious and rational; but we can expect nothing so important from the works of Hindu or Muselman physicians, as the knowledge, which experience must have given them, of simple medicines. I have seen an Indian prescription of fifty-four, and another of sixtyfix, ingredients; but such compositions are always to be suspected, since the effect of one ingredient may deitroy that of another; and it were better to find certain accounts of a single leaf or berry, than to be acquainted with the most elaborate compounds, unless they too have been proved by, a multitude of successful experiments. The noble deobftruent oil, extracted from the Eranda nut, the whole family of Balsams, the incomparable stomachick root from Columbo, the fine aftringent ridiculously called Japan earth, but in truth produced by the decoction of an Indian plant, have long been used in Afia; and who can foretel what glorious discoveries of other oils, roots, and falutary juices, may be made by your fociety? If it be doubtful whether the Peruvian bark be always efficacious in this country, its place may, perhaps, be supplied by some indigenous vegetable equally antiseptick, and more congenial to the climate. Whether any treatises on Agriculture have been written by experienced natives of these provinces, I am not yet informed; but since the court of Spain expect to find useful remarks in an Arabick tract preserved in the Escurial, on the cultivation of land in that kingdom, we should inquire for fimilar compositions, and examine the contents of such as we can procure.
The sublime science of Chymistry, which I was on the point of calling divine, must be added, as a key to the richest treafuries of nature ; and it is impossible to foresee how greatly it may
improve our manufactures, especially if it can fix those brilliant dyes, which want nothing of perfect beauty but a longer continuance of their splendour; or how far it may lead to new methods of fluxing and compounding metals, which the Indians, as well as the Chinese, are thought to have practised in higher perfection than ourselves.
In those elegant arts, which are called fine and liberal, though of less general utility than the labours of the mechanick, it is really wonderful how much a single nation has excelled the whole world: I mean the ancient Greeks, whose Sculpture, of which we have exquisite remains both on gems and in marble, no modern tool can equal; whose Architecture we can only imitate at a servile distance, but are unable to make one addition to it, without destroying its graceful simplicity; whose Poetry ftill delights us in youth, and amuses us at a maturer age; and of whose Painting and Mufick we have the concurrent relations of so many grave authors, that it would be strange incredulity to doubt their excellence. Painting, as an art belonging to the powers of the imagination, or what is commonly called Genius, appears to be yet in its infancy among the people of the East: but the Hindu system of musick has, I believe, been formed on truer principles than our own; and all the skill of the native composers is directed to the great object of their art, the natural expresion of strong passions, to which melody, indeed, is often facrificed: though some of their tunes are pleasing even to an European ear. Nearly the same may be truly asserted of the Arabian or Persian fyftem ; and, by a correct explanation of the best books on that subject, much of the old Grecian theory may probably be recovered.
The poetical works of the Arabs and Persians, which differ surprisingly in their style and form, are here pretty generally known; and, though taftes, concerning which there can be no disputing, are divided in regard to their merit, yet we may safely say of them, what ABULFAZL pronounces of the Mahábbárat, that, “ aithough
they abound with extravagant images and de
scriptions, they are in the highest degree enter“taining and instructive." Poets of the greatest genius, PINDAR, ÆschyLUS, DANTE, PE
TRARCA, SHAKESPEAR, SPENSER, have most abounded in images not far from the brink of. absurdity ; but, if their luxuriant fancies, or those of ABULOLA, FIRDAUSI, Niza'mi, were pruned away at the hazard of their strength and majesty, we should lose many pleasures by the amputation. If we may form a just opinion of the Sanscrit poetry fronı the specimens already exhibited, (though we can only judge perfectly by consulting the originals), we cannot but thirst for the whole work of VYA'SA, with which a member of our society, whose presence deters me from saying more of him, will in due time gratify the publick. The poetry of Mathurà, which is the Parnasian land of the Hindus, has a softer and less elevated strain; but, since the inhabitants of the districts near Agra, and principally of the Duab, are said to surpass all other Indians in eloquence, and to have composed many agreeable tales and lovesongs, which are still extant, the Bhásbá, or vernacular idiom of Vraja, in which they are written, should not be neglected. No specimens of genuine Oratory can be expc&ted from nations, among whom the form of government precludes even the idea of popular eloquence; but the art of writing, in elegant and modulated periods, has been cultivated in Afia from the earliest ages: the Véda's, as well as the Alcoran, are written in measured prose ; and the compositions of ISOCRATES are not more highly polished than those of the best Arabian and Persian authors.
Of the Hindu and Museiman architecture there are yet many noble remains in Bahar, and some in the vicinity of Malda ; nor am I unwilling to believe, that even those ruins, of which you will, I truit, be presented with correct delineations, may furnish our own architects with new ideas of beauty and sublimity.
Permit me now to add a few words on the Sciences, properly so named ; in which it must be admitted, that the Asiaticks, if compared with our Western nations, are mere children. One of the most sagacious men in this age,
who continues, I hope, to improve and adorn it, SAMUEL JOHNSON, remarked in my hearing, that, “ if Newton had flourished in ancient “ Greece, he would have been worshipped as a
divinity:" how zealously then would he be adored in Hindustan, if his incomparable writings could be read and comprehended by the Pandits of Cashmir or Benares ! I have seen a mathematical book in Sanscrit of the highest antiquity ; but soon perceived from the diagrams, that it contained only simple elements : there
may, indeed, have been, in the favourable atmosphere of Asia, some diligent observers of the celestial bodies, and such observations, as are