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Here they import the advice which it was usual for the aged witnesses to give to the new married couple.
Here it will be remarked that every thing delineated is but the sign of some sensible object. The imagination, added to a knowledge of Mexican marriage customs, makes the rude picture intelligible; but it conveys no sound of letter or word; it merely tells to the eye a story, which, though perfectly intelligible to every ancient Mexican, would not probably be read off or translated by any two into precisely the same language. It is not at all improbable, in the view of the Chevalier Bunsen, that the first writing of the Egyptians was of this pictorial character; though he thinks that the fact is not to be proved from the monuments. He deduces it from the essential nature and requisites of a figurative character, and a comparison of them with the individual elements of the system of hieroglyphical writing, as they are now known to exist.
According to Clement there were three modes of expressing ideas by hieroglyphic characters, all being the representations of physical objects, more or less exact.
I. The idea might be conveyed by direct imitation; that is, by a picture of the object intended to be expressed. Thus, the picture of a man denotes a man, and that of a horse, a horse.
II. By a symbolic or enigmatic use of the pictures of objects: that is, by the representation of one object conveying an idea of another. Thus, the relation of a son is designated by an egg, 9 a goose, tafe an eye, <&, or a seed
germinating, »Jfr. We do not now stop to ask why these signs indicate this relation, or how the fact that they do so was discovered; our object is, at present, simply to illustrate one of the modes of using the hieroglyphic symbols. It verifies Clement's remark, as quoted by Bunsen, that "they apply pictorial signs to objects of different import, and bring them, as it were, under another category, (t. e., transfer them or express them metaphorically, as we should describe it,) for they sometimes interchange them, at others modify them in various ways.'
Under this species of hieroglyphic writing, there were, as is stated very perspicuously by Mr. Gliddon, four different modes of expression, viz.:
1st. A part was sometimes put for the whole; as, for instance, the head of a ram or goose was delineated instead of the whole animal. This was doubtless an abridgment of convenience merely.
2d. Sometimes the cause was put for the effect; for example, a month was expressed by a crescent, (the sign of the moon,) with its horns pointing downward, to indicate that it had passed through one of its regular periods—a lunation was ended. Sometimes again, the effect was put for the cause; a column of smoke ascending from a stove, meant fire. Sometimes, too, the labor done was symbolized by the instruments which had been used in its performance: thus, writing was expressed by the implements necessary to the scribe, viz., the reed, ink vessel, and tablet grouped into one symbol.
3d. Sometimes the idea was expressed by metaphor purely. Thus, a vulture represented a mother, because this bird was supposed by the Egyptians to nourish its young with its own blood. A bee meant a king, because of the real or supposed monarchical government under which that insect lived. It is perhaps worthy of investigation whether this use of hieroglyphics is not comparatively modern, and whether it be not the "secret character" to which Clement alludes, and of which the work of Horapollo, before mentioned, furnishes numerous specimens. Certain it is, that many of the interpretations of Horapollo are not sustained by the ancient monuments or by the Book of the Dead, and Bunsen remarks of them that most of his explanations are little better than arbitrary subtleties or false cabalistic mysticism; and that most of his hieroglyphics are borrowed from the "secret characters," and consequently do not apply to the monuments or books.
4thly. Sometimes the hieroglyphic symbol conveyed its meaning by an enigma. Thus the Ibis stood for the god Thoth, because of some fancied mystical connection between the bird and the god; so also with other emblems of Egyptian divinities. The lotus flower indicated Upper Egypt, a roll of papyrus Lower Egypt.
III. Clement states distinctly that the hieroglyphic characters, in addition to the two modes of conveying ideas already described, were used also to express letters (though he does not tell us how they did it); and this brings us to the consideration of their most interesting use as phonetics, or the signs of sound. If the modern reader were merely informed that the ancient Egyptians possessed an alphabet, which had been recently discovered, he would doubtless conclude, from his acquaintance with what are known to him as alphabets, that a certain set of seemingly arbitrary linear characters, to which were attached certain sounds of vowels and consonants, was what had been brought to light. He certainly never would divine, from the announcement, that a very numerous set of pictures of common objects had been most ingeniously made to convey, each, the simple sound of a letter, often without the slightest reference to the character or purposes of the object delineated. He would be much perplexed, for instance, to know why the picture of an owl should be M, or that of a hand should indicate a T. When the principle of Egyptian phonetics is explained, the wonder vanishes; and though the modern reader may justly think the plan complicated, he will also see that it is quite certain and intelligible in its application. The governing principle in the phonetic system is the simple one hinted at in the last chapter; viz., that a sound is represented by the pictorial image of some physical object; and that the mode of knowing what sound is meant, is to take the name of the object represented, in the colloquial idiom of the ancient Egyptians, and the initial letter or articulation of that name, is the sound or letter indicated. But an example is the best illustration of this principle, and none better can be made than that which is furnished to our hand by Mr. Gliddon in his first published lectures.
Now to apply our alphabet; let us suppose an ancient Egyptian desirous of writing phonetically what we call 'crocodile.' He would give us the following characters:
Ik I a The first is an owl, the second is the back
of a chair, and the third is a twisted cord. The owl is called in the ancient language mulag, or as some write it, mooladj; this furnishes us with the initial M; so the initial of the next sign gives us S, while that of the last furnishes H. Placing the three together, we have m s h; supply the vowel, as is necessary in oriental languages generally, (for in the Semitic tongues it is frequently omitted,) and you get the word msuh, which is one of the Egyptian names for the crocodile.
Now it will be at once perceived that, as very many words must commence with the same letter, if any word may be taken to express, phonetically, its initial, there is danger of confusion; and hence it became important to ascertain how far this system of phonetic objects extends. Upon examination, the number of objects used in the Egyptian writing, was found to be limited. All objects that express the same initial letter are, as we have said, called homophones; from the Greek words implying the same sound. After the discovery of those objects which were ordinarily used phonetically, the way was open for the construction of a phonetic alphabet.
For the purpose of illustration merely, we subjoin such an alphabet. It should, however, be remarked, that upon the establishment of Christianity in Egypt, ihe ancient system of writing, from its supposed connection with idolatry, was laid aside, and the translations of the Bible and other religious books into the language of the country, were written in Greek characters. There were, however, six sounds in Egyptian,