תמונות בעמוד

book of Genesis. Now, in the first place, we do not understand why Mesha must be represented by a mountain: Moses says nothing of the kind, while he expressly mentions that Sephar is “ a mount of the East.” And we should be glad to be informed what is the matter with Mecca, that the native tradition must needs be set aside ? It lies quite enough to the north to be considered in an “opposite quarter.” And it is surely sufficiently distant to allow of “ an interval” adequate " to one of the most numerous of patriarchal families;" the inadequacy of the space enclosed being the ground on which Mr. F. has rejected the limits proposed by Bockart. But the fact is, that our author has been delighted at the success with which Bockart employed the principle of the anagram, in the case of the classical Corodamum-promontorium and the scriptural Hadoram; and so he wishes to exercise his ingenuity in the same line, and therefore occasionally (like a child with a new toy) he is a little too much engrossed with his plaything. We may, of course, be mistaken; but it strikes us, that he is, perhaps, rather too fond of applying the anagram to the ancient names, after the fashion of the Inquisitors with thè thumbscrew, when they would extort a confession of crimes never committed. Zames Mons (it will be seen at once) is wrung out of Mesha by this process.

We could not refrain from these observations en passant. We will now proceed to the main object of these pages; which is to direct the attention of our readers to a matter of singular interest, to which our author devotes some hundred or two of pages. It is but remotely connected with the main object of his work-it occurred quite accidentally, and has given a most unexpected turn to, and thrown a mantle of romantic interest over, his researches; it is, to let him speak for himself, no less than

“The decipherment of an unknown alphabet, and the recovery of a lost language ; that alphabet, the celebrated Musnad, which was known to Pocock himself only by vague and erroneous report of Mahometan writers, and whose total disappearance was deplored by Sir W. Jones, as the great gap between us and the earliest records of mankind ; this language, the once famous and long-lost 'tongue of Hamyar.' ”– Vol. i. p. 8.

We beg the reader in the outset not to mistake us; we do not mean to assert that Mr. Forster has succeeded in deciphering the inscriptions which have been brought to light: to pass an opinion, either one way or the other, would require far more critical investigation than we have yet been able to bestow on his book. Alĩ that we propose doing in the present notice, is, to give an account resumé of the manner in which specimens of the “ long-lost tongue of Hamyar" have been brought to light, and of the steps by which Mr. Forster proceeded in deciphering them. We do not mean to say that he has deciphered them; we pass no opinion ex cathedrá upon that: although, if out of regard to our self-constituted office we be expected to say something, we will freely confess that we have discovered no glaring impossibility in what he says ;-we will go even farther, we will own that we took up Mr. Forster's book rather prejudiced against it, and we have laid it down decidedly impressed in its favour; our critical eyes have discovered no wanton assumptions, nor detected any unscholar-like mistakes; and we have not read any book for many a long day which has stirred in us a deeper interest. Contenting ourselves, therefore, with this caution—that we wish now to be looked upon as having dropped the pen of the reviewer, and having assumed the more humble office of the expositor, we shall proceed without further delay to place before our readers, for their benefit, a simple explanation of the matter which has interested ourselves.

About ten years ago, Captain Haines, I. N. was sent in command of the Palinurus to survey the southern coast of the Arabian peninsula, called the district of Hadramaut, stretching from about long. 45° (or 2o east of the ancient emporium Aden) to some ten degrees to the north-east, or as far as the province of Omân. During the course of operations, Lieutenant Wellsted (the second in command) discovered several inscriptions, all written in the same unknown character, but differing considerably in other respects; some being found cut in stones at Mâreb, near Sanaa,* (about 150 miles north-north-east of Aden), some carved in stone at the newly discovered ruins of Nakab el Hajar, (a few miles in-shore, about 3° east of Aden), some deeply engraven in the solid rock, at the promontory of Hisn Ghorab; and, lastly we may as well mention one discovered only two years ago at Aden itself, by work-people employed in excavating

“ Sanaâ, ville principale dans l'intéricur de l’Yémen,"'--Hist. de l'Acad. des Inscriptions, t. xxix. p. 20.

† Nakab el Hajar (which lies about eight-and-forty miles in a north-westerly direction from Aïn, and marked on the chart in lat. 14° 2', long. 46, 30') otherwise written Nukbel Hajar, stands in the centre of an extensive valley, thickly studded with villages and cultivated grounds, and called by the natives Wadi Meifah. It was conjectured by Lieutenant Wellsted to be the Mæpha Metropolis of Ptolemy; a conjecture which has been confirmed by Mr. Forster, provided that his version of the inscription over the entrance be correct.

At vol. ii. pp. 195—204, he extracts a most interesting description of the ruins, from Mr. Wellsted's own account. Mr. Forster has further presented his readers with a vignette of the ruins and their rocky foundation, and with a map of the route to them drawn (we belicve) originally from materials furnished by Mr. Wellsted, for the Royal Geographical Society's Journal, by its ghen secretary.

for a new road. The interest of this our latest discovery in Arabian antiquities consists in this, that, though Aden was the chief emporium of the kingdom of the Homerites, no Hamyaritic inscriptions, previous to this, have ever been found either in the ruins of the ancient town, or its immediate vicinity.

The others are all evidently of nearly the same, and that a very remote, date; while this at Aden bears internal evidences of one much lower, viz. of having been cut in the reign of one of the last of the Homerite princes, i.e. within seventy years of the birth of Mahomet. It differs too from the rest in another particular; while they were found engraven on the solid rock, or, to quote Captain Haines's letter to the Bombay government, " on oblong marble blocks, generally forming part of a gateway,” in this specimen we have a circular slab of pure, and very compact, white marble, with a raised rim round it,-brought to light, moreover," from a depth of twenty feet beneath the present surface of Aden. The inscription," he adds, which “is not so well executed as many others,* is perfectly clear, without flaw or injury. In removing the stone, part was unfortunately broken off by the work-people.”—Forster, vol. ii. P. 395.

Having said this much of the other inscriptions, it is to those found at Hisn Ghorab that we wish to direct chief attention.

It occurred to Mr. Forster, that if deciphered, they would probably throw light on his researches: but how to read them was the question. They had been sent within the last few years to the most learned linguists of Germany, Professors Gesenius and Rediger; the former of whom had given them up in despair, and the latter had confessed his inability to do more than read and render the first word of the chief Hisn Ghorab inscription, (a reading and rendering which he afterwards rejected,) and had pronounced the inscription to be one of persons speaking of themselves in the first person plural. Under these circumstances, Mr. Forster, having tried his own hermeneutic powers upon them in vain, had laid them aside; when, turning one day for materials for his work to a rare tract in this country, the “Historia Imperii Vetustissimi Joktanidorum ” of Albert Schultens, (which happened to be bound up with his copy of the larger work of that author, the “Monumenta Vetustiora Arabiæ," he opened upon a monument, which from the equal length of the two documents, and the apparent identity of their locality, as indicated by the title, instantly struck him as being an Arabic version of the chief of the inscriptions at Hisn Ghorab. The title, often before read without attracting any special notice, ran thus:

* The writer of this notice has been told, that thousands of inscriptions of the same Hamyaritic character have been discovered along the coasts of Hadramaut and Yemen. A fact which does not quite tally with Mr. Forster's "rarity even of inscriptions in the Hamyaritic," vol. ii. p. 81, note.

Carmina antiquissima, in Arabia Felice inventa,

Super marmoribus arcium dirutarum,
In tractu littoris Hadramutteni,

Prope emporium Aden."* These “most ancient poems” (the history of whose discovery has been fortunately preserved by Schultens) are two translations from the Arabic of Al-Kazwînî, in his Historical Geography. They are stated to have been discovered, and translated out of the original into Arabic, by Abderrahman, viceroy of Yemen, in the course of an official progress of inspection along “the shore of Aden,” (as he terms the coast stretching from Aden eastward,) about A. D. 660-670; a circumstance which proves that, like the inscriptions now discovered at Hisn Ghorab, they were written in a more ancient character than the Cufic then in use; and that, though unknown now, they were decipherable by the Arabs of that day.

Struck, therefore, with the probable identity of the longer of the two “most ancient poems with the principal of the lately discovered Hisn Ghorab inscriptions, Mr. Forster at once applied a mechanical test to them. He compared the two together; and allowing-in consequence of the great length of the lines of the original inscription-each line of that to represent a couplet of the presumed Arabic version, he found the two documents exactly corresponded as to length, and that the number of letters in the one approximated closely to the number of characters in the other. This correspondence was afterwards increased by procuring a fac-simile of that portion of the original MS. of Al-Kazwînî, from which Schultens informs us he took the Arabic poems of which he gives the Latin version; which MS. is lodged in the University of Leyden. By means of this exact copy our author was enabled to discover that the Arabic poem was not written (as Schultens had, for convenience, printed it) in ten couplets, but like the inscription in ten lines. The context likewise of the poem in Al-Kazwînî's MS. consists of a prefatory notice, purporting to be taken from the Viceroy's own account, of the site and main features of the place where he discovered it; all of which correspond exactly with Lieutenant Wellsted's account of the whereabouts of the Hisn Ghorab inscriptions, and enable us to correct Schulten's incorrect expression of "prope emporium Aden.” Furthermore, the context between the poems

For the sake of the unlearned reader—" Most ancient poems, found in Arabia Felix, upon stones of ruined towers, on the shore of Hadramáut, near the emporium of Aden."

in the Arabic MS. (being a preliminary notice of the second, also from the official account of Abderrahman) lets in light for the recovery of the still undiscovered inscription, the original of the shorter of the two “poems.” Indeed, the description of its site answers so completely to that given by Captain Haines, of a massive ruin on the coast at this day—the site of the castle of Messenaat, in long. 50° 45' 23" east, that Mr. Forster predicts the inscription will be found there. *

Putting together these and some few other circumstances, he became satisfied so far of their identity; in other words, that the longer of the two “most ancient poems” of Al-Kazwînî and Schultens, and the longer of the Hisn Ghorab inscriptions, stood to each other in the relation of version and original. Encouraged by the success of his initiatory tentamina, the next point was to decipher the unknown legend. The steps by which (we must say, with consummate ingenuity) he has accomplished this, were briefly as follows:

From Professor Roediger's success in making out the first word Smak, "we dwelt," he inferred that, in the four letters of that word he had before him the true powers of four letters of the alphabet of Hamyar.

Again, from the radical similarity of all the Semitic languages, he inferred that the few characters in the Hisn Ghorab inscription similar in their form to letters in the Hebrew alphabet, were likely to possess the same powers; e.g. that one somewhat like an inverted gamma (1) answered to the Hebrew resh (7). And further, from the immemorial connexion between Southern Arabia and the coast of Africa, parts of which have, from most ancient times, been subject to the kings of Yemen and Hadramaut, he deduced the likelihood, that such of the letters as bore resemblance to those of the Ethiopic alphabet, would be found to possess the sameness of power.† Furnished with these elements, he proceeded to make experiments. He pitched upon, first, one word at random, and then another, and read each one as well as he could guess; and then searched in Golius's Arabic Lexicon till he found one not unlike it; and so on with

* The Rev. T. Brockman, of Sandwich, has gone out, with praiseworthy zeal, to look for it.

+ Rædiger had done the same; but unfortunately assumed besides, that a character somewhat like an inverted sigma (the reader will perceive that we cannot give representations of the Hamnyaritic characters) must have the same power as the Greek 2, an assumption which, of course, was fatal to his alphabet.

"That Professor Rædiger was further right in applying the power of the Ethiopic letters, where there was sameness of form, to decipher the characters of the unknown inscriptions, became also clear to me, from the one instance in which there could be no mistake, -the repeated occurrence of the sign of the first person plural, nu."-Vol. ii. p. 98.

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