The travels of Sig. Pietro della Valle, a noble Roman, into East-India and Arabia Deserta in which, the several countries, together with the customs, manners, traffique, and rites both religious and civil, of those Oriental princes and nations, are faithfully described : in familiar letters to his friend Signior Mario Schipano : whereunto is added a relation of Sir Thomas Roe's Voyage into the East-Indies.
Della Valle, Pietro, 1586-1652., Roe, Thomas, Sir, 1581?-1644., Havers, G. (George)

SECTION XII. Of their Language, their Books, their Learning, &c.

THE Language of this Empire, I mean the Vulgar, bears the name of it, and is called Indostan; it hath much affi∣nity with the Persian, and Arabian Tongues: but the Indostan is a smoother Language, and more easie to be pronounced than the other, a Language which is very significant, and speaks much few words; They write it (as we) to the right hand. It is ex∣pressed by letters, which are very much different from those Alphabets, by which the Persian and Arabian Tongues are form∣ed. The Persian there is spoken as their more quaint and Court-tongue. The Arabian is their learned Language, both written backward to the left hand like the Hebrew, from whence Page  413 they borrrow many words, which come so near it, as that he who is a good Critick in the Hebrew may very well guess at the meaning of much in both those Languages. The Persian is a Language, as if it consisted all of Guttural letters (as some in the Hebrew Alphabet are called) filling the mouth in the pro∣nunciation of them; for as the words in that Language are full of sense, so in their speaking they are full of sound.

For the Latin and Greek, by which there hath been so much knowledg conveyed into the World, they are as ignorant of them both, as if they had never been; and this may be one great reason why there is so little learning amongst them. But for the people themselves, they are men of very strong reason, and will speak ex re nata, upon any offered occasion, very exceed∣ing well; and doubtless they are a people of such strong Capa∣cities, that, were there literature amongst them, they might be the Authors of many excellent works; but as the case stands with them, all that is there attainable towards Learning, is but to read and write.

And here by the way let me insert this, that I never saw any Idiot or natural Fool, nor any deformed person amongst them, in any of those parts.

For Logick and Rhetorick which are so instrumental, the first to enlarge, and the second to polish discourses, they have none but what is Natural. They say, that they write some wit∣ty Poems, and compose many handsom Annals and Stories of their own, and other adjacent Countries.

They delight much in Musick, and have some stringed, but many more Wind-instruments; They have the use of Timbrels likewise; but for want of pleasing Airs, their Musick in my ears never seemed to be any thing but discord.

Their Books are not many, and those are Manuscripts. That rare and happy invention of Printing, which hath been the ad∣vancement of so much learning within Christendom, is not known without it.

They have heard of Aristotle, whom they call Aplis, and have some of his Books (as they say) in the Arabian Tongue, in which Language (they further say) they have many Books writ∣ten by Avicenna, that ancient Physitian, who was born in Sa∣marchandia, one of the most fam'd places within the Tartarian Empire, the Country (as they believe) where Tamberlain, the Mogols great Ancestor, drew his first breath.

Some parts or fragments they have of the old Testament; of which more, when I shall come to speak of their Religion.

Many amongst them profess themselvs to have great skill in judicial Astrology, that great Cheat, which hath been very an∣ciently, and often put upon (as the Sacred Story witnesseth) the people inhabiting the East, and South parts of the World. I call it a Cheat, because there is, and must needs be, so much uncertainty in it; all things here below being ordered, and over∣ruled, Page  414 by the secret, and unerring providence of Almighty God, which frustrateth the tokens of the Lyars, and maketh Di∣viners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledg foolish, Esay 44.25. First, these Diviners are mad when things fall not out according to their bold predictions; And secondly, they have been, and not without cause, esteem∣ed as mad-men, in foretelling things which they could not know, and much less bring to pass.

And therefore I have heard a great Master in, and a publick Professor of, Astronomy, who could see as far into Constella∣tions, and observe as much from them as any other, often say, that he would go by the very self same rules that others did, to predict things to come; and would write that which was quite contrary to what they observed, yet what he wrote should as of∣ten fall to be as true as what they foretold.

Yet notwithstanding the truth of these premises, the great Mogol puts so much confidence in his Astrologers, that he will not undertake a journey, nor yet resolve to do any thing besides of the least consequence, unless his Wizards tell him, it is a good and a prosperous hour, to begin, and set upon such an under∣taking, and at the very instant he hath his directions from them, he sets upon the thing he undertakes, and not before.