Page:A history of Sanskrit literature (1900), Macdonell, Arthur Anthony.djvu/72

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going back to the most ancient times. Nothing further seemed to be necessary than to ascertain the explanation of the original text which prevailed in India five centuries ago, and is laid down in Sāyaṇa's work. This view is represented by the translation of the Rigveda begun in 1850 by H. H. Wilson, the first professor of Sanskrit at Oxford.

Another line was taken by the late Professor Roth, the founder of Vedic philology. This great scholar propounded the view that the aim of Vedic interpretation was not to ascertain the meaning which Sāyaṇa, or even Yāska, who lived eighteen centuries earlier, attributed to the Vedic hymns, but the meaning which the ancient poets themselves intended. Such an end could not be attained by simply following the lead of the commentators. For the latter, though valuable guides towards the understanding of the later theological and ritual literature, with the notions and practice of which they were familiar, showed no continuity of tradition from the time of the poets; for the tradition supplied by them was solely that which was handed down among interpreters, and only began when the meaning of the hymns was no longer fully comprehended. There could, in fact, be no other tradition; interpretation only arising when the hymns had become obscure. The commentators, therefore, simply preserved attempts at the solution of difficulties, while showing a distinct tendency towards misinterpreting the language as well as the religious, mythological, and cosmical ideas of a vanished age by the scholastic notions prevalent in their own.

It is clear from what Yāska says that some important discrepancies in opinion prevailed among the older expo-