Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 1.djvu/51

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Homeric Poems are national Epics, like the Râmâyana, and the Nibelunge, and the Homeric Hymns have never received that general recognition or sanction which alone can impart to the poetical effusions of personal piety the sacred or canonical character which is the distinguishing feature of the Vedic Hymns. The sacred literature of the early inhabitants of Italy seems to have been of a liturgical rather than of a purely religious kind, and whatever the Celts, the Germans, the Slaves may have possessed of sacred traditions about their gods and heroes, having been handed down by oral tradition chiefly, has perished beyond all hope of recovery. Some portions of the Eddas alone give us an idea of what the religious and heroic poetry of the Scandinavians may have been. The Egyptians possessed Sacred Books, and some of them, such as the Book of the Dead, have come down to us in various forms. There is a translation of the Book of the Dead by Dr. Birch, published in the fifth volume of Bunsen's Egypt, and a new edition and translation of this important work may be expected from the combined labours of Birch, Chabas, Lepsius, and Naville. In Babylon and Assyria, too, important fragments of what may be called a Sacred Literature have lately come to light. The interpretation, however, of these Hieroglyphic and Cuneiform texts is as yet so difficult that, for the present, they are of interest to the scholar only, and hardly available for historical purposes.

Leaving out of consideration the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, it appears that the only great and original religions which profess to be founded on Sacred Books[1], and have preserved them in manuscript, are:—

1. The religion of the Brahmans.

2. The religion of the followers of Buddha.

3. The religion of the followers of Zarathustra.

4. The religion of the followers of Khung-fû-𝔷ze.

5. The religion of the followers of Lâo-𝔷ze.

6. The religion of the followers of Mohammed.

A desire for a trustworthy translation of the Sacred Books of these six Eastern religions has often been expressed. Several have been translated into English, French, German, or Latin, but in some cases these translations are difficult to procure, in others they are loaded with notes and commentaries, which are intended for

  1. Introduction to the Science of Religion, by F. Max Müller (Longmans, 1873), p. 104.