Page:A history of Sanskrit literature (1900), Macdonell, Arthur Anthony.djvu/78

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which is so prevalent in the later literature, and which is betrayed even in the earlier period by the saying in one of the Brāhmaṇas that the gods love the recondite. In some hymns, too, there appears that tendency to play with words which was carried to inordinate lengths in late Sanskrit poems and romances. The hymns of the Rigveda, of course, vary much in literary merit, as is naturally to be expected in the productions of many poets extending over some centuries. Many display a high order of poetical excellence, while others consist of commonplace and mechanical verse. The degree of skill in composition is on the average remarkably high, especially when we consider that here we have by far the oldest poetry of the Aryan race. The art which these early seers feel is needed to produce a hymn acceptable to the gods is often alluded to, generally in the closing stanza. The poet usually compares his work to a car wrought and put together by a deft craftsman. One Rishi also likens his prayers to fair and well-woven garments; another speaks of having adorned his song of praise like a bride for her lover. Poets laud the gods according to knowledge and ability (vi. 21, 6), and give utterance to the emotions of their hearts (x. 39, 15). Various individual gods are, it is true, in a general way said to have granted seers the gift of song, but of the later doctrine of revelation the Rigvedic poets know nothing.

The remark which has often been made that monotony prevails in the Vedic hymns contains truth. But the impression is produced by the hymns to the same deity being commonly grouped together in each book. A similar effect would probably arise from reading in succession twenty or thirty lyrics on Spring, even in an anthology of the best modern poetry. When we con-