Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 1.djvu/30

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xx
PREFACE TO THE

myself grudged no praise to what to my mind is really beautiful or sublime in the early revelations of religious truth, I feel the less hesitation in fulfilling the duty of the true scholar, and placing before historians and philosophers accurate, complete, and unembellished versions of some of the sacred books of the East. Such versions alone will enable them to form a true and just estimate of the real development of early religious thought, so far as we can still gain a sight of it in literary records to which the highest human or even divine authority has been ascribed by the followers of the great religions of antiquity. It often requires an effort to spoil a beautiful sentence by a few words which might so easily be suppressed, but which are there in the original, and must be taken into account quite as much as the pointed ears in the beautiful Faun of the Capitol. We want to know the ancient religions such as they really were, not such as we wish they should have been. We want to know, not their wisdom only, but their folly also; and while we must learn to look up to their highest points where they seem to rise nearer to heaven than anything we were acquainted with before, we must not shrink from looking down into their stony tracts, their dark abysses, their muddy moraines, in order to comprehend both the heighth and the depth of the human mind in its searchings after the Infinite.

 I can answer for myself and for those who have worked with me, that our translations are truthful, that we have suppressed nothing, that we have varnished nothing, however hard it seemed sometimes even to write it down.

 There is only one exception. There are in ancient