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208 LANGUAGE, VOLUME 66, NUMBER 1 (1990) taneous depiction of Agni as fire and as god of fire and by capturing the concrete physical activity surrounding the fire ritual as well as its more abstract significance as an act of prayer, comes closest to capturing the multiple levels ofmeaning conveyed by the Rigvedic poet. In discussing the famous Indra-hymn, 1.32, Schmeja adopts the position that the encounter with the serpent reflects a real event that occurred as the Indo-Aryans were entering the Punjab, having abandoned their nomadic existence on the steppes to the North. A hero, immortalized as Indra, slew a cobra as he led his people and their cattle, thirsty and exhausted, to a resting place in a moist meadow. By this act, he gained access to water. The battle with the cobra was fought in a violent storm replete with thunder, lightning, hail, and darkness. When the battle was over, the people felt as though a new day had dawned for them. This interpretation challenges the view that the battle of Indra and the serpent was part of a mythological act ofcreation. It would seem to founder, however, on the fact that—as convincingly demonstrated by Calvert Watkins (in Studies in Memory of Warren Cowgill, de Gruyter, 1987, pp. 270-99)—the collocation of *gwhen- 'slay' and *ogwhi- 'serpent' is not limited to IndoAryan or even Indo-Iranian, but seems to be part of a general Indo-European serpent- or dragon-slaying myth. Compare Sanskrit áhan áhim 'he smote the serpent' , Aveslanjanat azim (id.), Greek (Pindar, Pyth. 4.249-50) kte'me ... OPHiN, I ... klépsen te mëdeian ... tàn Pelíao phonón 'He killed the serpent . . . and stole away Medeia, the bane of Pelias', and OE (Beowulf, 886) wyrm ácwealde 'he killed the worm'. The OE example shows lexical replacement of *ogwhi-, which does not survive in Germanic; but the avatar of *gwhen- is retained in other contexts involving serpents as the 'bane'-word, e.g. Old Norse (Hymisqviöa 22) orms einbani 'the serpent's single bane'. In his discussion of X. 119, Schmeja, with greater success, attributes the drunken monologue not to a god such as Indra or Agni, as other scholars have suggested, but to the poet, who sees himself as soaring out of his body, over heaven and earth. As a parallel, he cites the third verse of Eichendorff's poem 'Mondnacht': Und meine Seele spannte I Weit ihre Flügel aus, I Flog durch die stillen Lande I Alsflöge sie nach Haus. He might also have cited Horace (Odes I 1.36), sublimi feriam sidera vértice, or Keats ('Ode to a Nightingale', 31-33), Away, awayfor I will fly to thee, I Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards, I But on the viewless wings of Poesy. An unusual feature of the book is that, following the references and an Index Locorum, we are provided with four foldout sheets containing the Rigvedic texts of the hymns discussed , together with translations in parallel columns of1.1 by Geldner, Mylius.andThieme: of 1.32 by Geldner, Thieme, and, in selected verses, H.-P. Schmidt; and of X. 1 19 by Geldner , Mylius, Richard Hauschild, and Schmeja. Will readers of Language want to read this book? For the most part, probably not. But those of us who teach, read, or do research on the Rigveda need all the assistance we can get in order to understand this arcane text. Linguistic studies employing Rigvedic data are filled with more than a few translational absurdities . Schmeja has provided us with some cogent methodological guidelines on how to approach the text, together with a generally reasonable and helpful discussion of three important Rigvedic hymns. [Jared S. Klein, The University of Georgia.] The linguistic aspect of Thor Heyerdahl 's theory. By W. Wilfried Schuhmacher. Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, 1989. Pp. 74. DM 30.00. The scattershot approach of this little book is evident in its table of contents. After a statement of 'The problem' (9-12)—namely, Heyerdahl's theory of prehistoric migrations from South America and British Columbia to Polynesia— the book continues with seven sections (or chapters): 'Impression One...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-0665
Print ISSN
0097-8507
Pages
pp. 208-209
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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