The Sahitya Darpana or 'Mirror of Composition' is a renowned Sanskrit work on Poetics by Visvanatha of early fourteenth century. It is divided into ten sections. The first section deals with the nature and definition of poetry. The second treats of various powers of a word (Vrttis). The third treats of sentiments (Rasa). The fourth treats of the divisions of poetry. The fifth discusses fully a power of a word called Vyanjana. The sixth treats of the division of poetry into Drsya ('the which is to be seen') and Sravya ('the which is to be heard'). The seventh treats of blemishes (Dosa). The eighth deals with the merits (Guna), viz. sweetness (Madhurya), Energy (Ojah), and perspicuity (Prasada). In the ninth section four styles (Riti), viz. Vaidarbhi, Gaudi, Pancali and Lati are discussed. And the tenth and last treats of the Figures of Speech (Alamkaras) in detail.
The present work is an English translation of the Sanskrit original, first published in 1875, by J.R. Ballantyne, who commenced the translation but could go only as far as one quarter of the work, and Pramada Dasa Mitra, completed the rest of it.
The translation of the Sahitya-darpana was commenced by the late lamented Principal of the Benares College, Dr. Ballantyne, whose memory, be it said in passing, will be ever cherished with gratitude and affection by his pupils as well as the pundits of that institution. The performance of that eminent scholar, however, extends little beyond a quarter, ending with page 128 of the present publication. At the particular instance and under the kind encouragement of his worthy successor and my honoured tutor, Mr. R. T. H. Griffith, M. A., I undertook to continue the work, which is now presented to the public in its completed form. The former portion has been revised and edited, and no pains have been spared in the task, wherein I had to compare the original and the translation word. I have, however, been particularly careful not to make in the learned Doctor's work any alterations not absolutely required by the text, and such sentences and passages only have been entirely re-written as misrepresented the original. I think I have sometimes been over-scrupulous in this direction, as, for instance, in adding only in a foot-note what evidently is the correct interpretation (see p. 78). As I am personally responsible for the alterations, I annex a list of references to the principal ones. I could wish Dr. Ballantyne had used the word 'taste' or 'relish' to render such an important term as rasa, denoting, as it does, the very essence of the essential subject-matter of the work. But I was asked to revise the former portion when the first two or three forms of my work had already passed through the press, so I could not help retaining the name 'flavour,' which will perhaps grate on the ears of better judges than myself as tasteless and gross. I should think it is the most unpoetical expression that could be used to denote the soul of poetry.
Our author, I think, has furnished a very apt definition of Poetry, viz., 'A sentence the soul whereof is Relish,' Now the question arises-What is it that constitutes relish itself it is pleasure no doubt, but not the sort of pleasure which felt, for instance, from hearing such words as simply convey a gratifying intelligence. It is a peculiar pleasure, it is a passion or emotion, it is love, or sorrow, or mirth, or wrath, or magnanimity, or terror, or wonder, or even disgust, or it may be pure and passionless joy,-not excited by its ordinary causes but delightfully suggested by a representation of what are its causes, effects, and concomitant mental and bodily states in the theatre of life. These, as exhibited in Poetry, are respectively called Excitants (vibhava), Ensuants anubhava and Accessories (vyabhichari); and a combination of these, whether wholly expressed, or partially expressed and partially implied, developing the nine modes of sentiment mentioned above, constitutes Poetry which has thus a nine-fold character. It is clear from the above elucidation that the Indian Critics held the right view, that an exhibition of human passion or emotion alone is poetry. Where, it might at first be objected, is the element of passion in the description of inanimate nature, or of irrational creatures? A little reflection would show that, in order to be poetical, it must have the colouring of emotion; it must, to use Indian phraseology, call forth one of the permanent sentiments by an exhibition of a part at least of the three-fold cause of its manifestation. Thus, the Sublime and the Beautiful in nature must come under one or other of the Relishes enumerated. First, the objects described may be contemplated with wonder as the prevailing sentiment, and the Marvellous will be the Relish of such poetry. Or, secondly, the poet may rise from the contemplation of Nature of Nature's God, reverence (bhava see text 245) being the prevailing sentiment in such a case. Or, thirdly, the scenes may be depicted as heightening some passion-love, for instance, or as ministering to that pure and passionless joy which constituted the Relish of Holy Tranquillity (the Quietistic Flavour). In the first case the objects form the Substantial Excitant, and in the rest the Enhancing Excitant of the Relish. The lower animals, however, may form the Excitants, Substantial or Enhancing, of almost all the varieties of Relish. Shelly's celebrated Hymn to a skylark, for instance, is throughout coloured with wonder or admiration, the other sentiments suggested by the varied and exuerant imagery serving only to minister to that main passion. We will select two or three stanzas for illustration:
It is remarkable that tough wonder is evidently the leading sentiment of this short poem, the poet commits not even in a single instance the fault of bluntly naming it. The Relish of the last stanza is 'love in separation,' here manifested in subordinate condition.
The coincidence of this view of poetry and that of John Stuart Mill is so remarkable that I cannot resist the temptation of quoting here the worlds of that thinker which would indeed serve to throw some light on the third chapter of the present work, treating of the essentials of poetry. Let us first compare our author's definition of poetry. Let us first compare our author's definition of poetry, which, by somewhat unfolding the technical term rasa, may be more perspicuously rendered-'Words whose essence is emotional delight are Poetry' with the two approved by Mill, viz., 'Poetry is impassioned truth.' '(Poetry is) man's thoughts tinged by his feelings.' The Ensuants (anubhava), one of three sets of the essentials in the delineation of the Permanents or Principal Sentiment (sthayi-bhava), are every clearly recognized in the following remarks:
"But there is a radical distinction between the interest felt in a story as such, and the interest ex excited by poetry; for the one is derived from incident, the other from the representation of feeling. In one, the source of the emotion excited is the exhibition of a state or states of human sensibility, in the other, of a series of states of mere outward circumstances." Dissert. And Vol. I.
Nor have the Permanent Sentiments (Text 206), themselves, of Indian critics escaped the keen observation of the British thinker, and the nine principal feelings enumerated by the latter, strikingly correspond to, and differ but little from, the nine recognized by the former. He says:
"Every truth which a human being can enunciate, every thought, even every outward impression, which can enter into his consciousness, may become poetry when shown through any impassioned medium, when invested with the colouring or joy, of grief, or pity, or affection, or admiration, or reverence, or awe, or even hatred or terror: and unless so coloured, nothing, be it as interesting as it may, is poetry." (p. 70).
It will be observed that joy, except under the comic sentiment, or mirth, is not recognized by Indian critics as one of the leading emotions in poetry, but only as one of the concomitant moods. The reason is it comes under that passionless and holy repose of the soul called Quietism (sama Text 238) and is hence counted as one of its Accessories. In the latter its subordination need not be pointed out. The following noble lines of Coleridge, for instance, depicting joy, in a prominent manner, as forming the fountain of Creation's luster, are a decided instance of the Quietistic Relish.
What is the Joy which glows in such a brilliant imagery? The poet himself tells us that it is the joy 'that never was given save to the pure and in their purest hour,' 'undreamt of by the sensual and the proud.' It has no admixture of earthly passion, though it may be associated with holy love-love that takes the name of universal benevolence, another concomitant of the Quietistic Relish. The above verses sound indeed as if they were a long-continued echo to the sublime strain of the Upanishad which exclaims-
(Taittiriyopanishad, p. 100, Bib. Ind)
(Who indeed, would inhale, who exhale, if this either were not Joy!) Joy here, is the Deity himself, the Essential Excitant of the Relish. The three essential merits (guna) of poetry, according to the later school of Rhetoric to which our critic belongs, are Sweetness, Energy and Perspicuity. To guard against misconception, it is to be mentioned that Dr. Ballantyne had inappropriately rendered to the term guna into 'style' by which name he refers to the subject of the eighth chapter, in his Advertisement. The proper equivalent of style is riti, the subject of the ninth chapter.
If is with no ordinary pleasure that I have now obtained the long looked for opportunity of expressing publicly my gratitude to Mr. R. T. H. Griffith, M. A., who (not to mention my great obligations as a pupil) has kindly revised, in MS. Or proof, a great portion of my work. From that distinguished scholar's paper on Indian Figures of Speech appended to his Specimens of Old Indian Poetry, I have borrowed some of the renderings of names in the tenth chapter. Deeply too do I feel myself indebted to the accomplished Professor A. E. Gough, B. A., for the kind help he has lent me, in my weak health, in the translation of the concluding portion of the eighth and ninth chapters. My hearty acknowledgements are also due to the distinguished antiquarian and scholar, Babu Rajendralal Mitra, who has not only all along evinced a true interest in the work, but has actually urged me on to its completion.
Children’s Books (1707)
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