Verse 56. "Thus God rendered, &c." - Both the fratricide Abimelech, and the unprincipled men of Shechem, had the iniquity visited upon them of which they had been guilty. Man's judgment may be avoided; but there is no escape from the judgments of God. I HAVE said that the fable of Jotham is the oldest, and perhaps the best, in the world; and referred for other particulars to the end of the chapter. On the general subject of fable, apologue, and parable, the reader will find a considerable dissertation at the end of Matt. xiii. 58; I shall add but a few things here, and they shall refer to the oldest collection of fables extant. These are of Indian origin, and are preserved in the Sanscreet, from which they have been translated into different languages, both Asiatic and European, under various titles.
The collection is called Hitopadesa, and the author Veshnoo Sarma; but they are known in Europe by The Tales and Fables of Bidpay, or Pilpay, an ancient Indian Philosopher. Of this collection Sir William Jones takes the following notice: - "The fables of Veshnoo Sarma, whom we ridiculously call Pilpay, are the most beautiful, if not the most ancient, collection of apologues in the world. They were first translated from the Sanscreet, in the sixth century, by Buzerchumihr, or bright as the sun, the chief physician, and afterwards the vizir of the great Anushirwan; and are extant under various names, in more than twenty languages. But their original title is Hitopadesa, or amicable instruction; and as the very existence of AEsop, whom the Arabs believe to have been an Abyssinian, appears rather doubtful, I am not disinclined to suppose that the first moral fables which appeared in Europe were of Indian or AEthiopian origin." Mr. Frazer, in his collection of Oriental MSS. at the end of his History of Nadir Shah, gives us the following account of this curious and instructive work: - "The ancient brahmins of India, after a good deal of time and labour, compiled a treatise, (which they called Kurtuk Dumnik,) in which were inserted the choicest treasure of wisdom and the most perfect rules for governing a people. This book they presented to their rajahs, who kept it with the greatest secrecy and care. About the time of Mohammed's birth or the latter end of the sixth century, Noishervan the Just, who then reigned in Persia, discovered a great inclination to see that book; for which purpose Burzuvia, a physician, who had a surprising talent in learning several languages, particularly Sanskerritt, was introduced to him as the most proper person to be employed to get a copy of it. He went to India, where, after some years' stay, and great trouble, he procured it. It was translated into the Pehluvi (the ancient Persian language) by him and Buzrjumehr, the vizir. Noishervan, ever after, and all his successors, the Persian kings, had this book in high esteem, and took the greatest care to keep it secret. At last Abu Jaffer Munsour zu Nikky, who was the second caliph of the Abassi reign, by great search got a copy of it in the Pehluvi language, and ordered Imam Hassan Abdal Mokaffa, who was the most learned of the age, to translate it into Arabic. This prince ever after made it his guide, not only in affairs relating to the government, but also in private life. "In the year 380 of the Hegira, Sultan Mahmud Ghazi put into verse; and afterwards, in the year 515, by order of Bheram Shah ben Massaud, that which Abdal Mokaffa had translated was retranslated into Persic by Abdul Mala Nasser Allah Mustofi; and this is that Kulila Dumna which is now extant. As this latter had too many Arabic verses and obsolete phrases in it, Molana Ali beg Hessein Vaes, at the request of Emir Soheli, keeper of the seals to Sultan Hossein Mirza, put it into a more modern style, and gave it the title of Anuar Soheli. "In the year 1002, the great moghul Jalal o Din Mohommed Akbar ordered his own secretary and vizir, the learned Abul Fazl, to illustrate the obscure passages, abridge the long digressions, and put it into such a style as would be most familiar to all capacities; which he accordingly did, and gave it the name of Ayar Danish, or the Criterion of Wisdom." This far Mr. Frazer, under the word Ayar Danish. "In the year 1709," says Dr. Wilkins, "the Kulila Dumna, the Persian version of Abul Mala Nasser Allah Mustofi, made in the 515th year of the Hegira, was translated into French, with the title of Les Conseils et les Maximes de Pilpay, Philosophe Indien, sur les divers Etats de la Vie. This edition resembles the Hitopadesa more than any other then seen; and is evidently the immediate original of the English Instructive and entertaining Fables of Pilpay, an ancient Indian philosopher, which, in 1775, had gone through five editions. "The Anuar Soheli, above mentioned, about the year 1540, was rendered into the Turkish language; and the translator is said to have bestowed twenty years' labour upon it. In the year 1724, this edition M. Galland began to translate into French, and the first four chapters were then published; but, in the year 1778, M. Cardonne completed the work, in three volumes, giving it the name of Contes et Fables Indiennes de Bidpai et de Lokman; traduites d' Ali Tcheleby ben Saleh, amateur Turk; 'Indian Tales and Fables of Bidpay and Lockman, translated from Aly Tcheleby ben Saleh, a Turkish author.'" The fables of Lockman were published in Arabic and Latin, with notes, by Erpenius, 4to. Amstel., 1636; and by the celebrated Golius, at the end of his edition of Erpen's Arabic Grammar, Lugd. Bat., 1656, with additional notes; and also in the edition of the same Grammar, by Albert Schultens, Lugd. Bat., 1748, 4to. They are only thirty-seven in number. Of the Hitopadesa, or fables of Veshnoo Sarma, we have two very elegant English translations from the original Sanscreet: one by Sir William Jones, printed in his works, 4to., vol. 6, Lond. 1799; the other by the father of Sanscreet literature in Europe, Dr. Charles Wilkins, of the India House, 8vo., Bath, 1787, with a collection of very important notes. The Bahar Danush, or Sea of Wisdom, abounds with maxims, apothegms, &c., similar to those in the preceding works; this was most faithfully translated from the Persian, by Dr. Jonathan Scott, late Persian secretary to his excellency Warren Hastings, published in three vols. 12mo., with notes, Shrewsbury, 1799. This is the most correct version of any Persian work yet offered to the public. The original is by Einaut Ullah. Of these works it may be said, they contain the wisdom of the oriental world; and many of the numerous maxims interspersed through them yield in importance only to those in the sacred writings. The fables attributed to AEsop have been repeatedly published in Greek and Latin, as well as in all the languages of Europe, and are well known. Those of Phaedrus are in general only a metrical version of the fables of AEsop. The compositions of Lamentations Fontaine, in French, and those of Mr. Gay, in English, are very valuable.