VERNACULAR LITERATURE 4I 5
form of Durg '. Four-fifths of the rest consists either of com-
mentaries or of treatises on the art of poetry, all of which are
ancillary to the purely religious literature. Only the small
remainder is definitely secular.
It is noteworthy that many of the vernacular writers, including
those who have exercised the greatest influence on the develop-
ment of the Hindu character, were men in the humblest ranks
of life, as contrasted with Sanskrit writers like Kaliddsa, Bhava-
bhhiti, or Sankara, who were Brahmans and lived at the courts of
kings. The greatest of all the moderns, Tulsi D5s, although a
Brahman by caste, was abandoned by his parents at birth, and
was picked up and educated by a wandering ascetic. Kabir
was a weaver, and Dadu a humble cotton-carder. Namdev, the
founder of Maratha poetry, was a tailor, and his most famous
successor, Tukaram, a struggling Sidra shopkeeper. Tiruvall-
uvar, the brightest star in the South-Indian firmament, was a
Pariah, the lowest of the low; and Vemana, the most admired
of Telugu writers, was an untaught peasant.
Indian vernacular literature is divided as to periods by a Poetry and
sharp line coinciding roughly with the commencement of the prose.
nineteenth century. The earlier period was the age of poetry,
and the later that in which prose first found general employ-
ment. In the age of poetry prose was almost unknown, except
as a vehicle for commentaries and the like. Even these were
often in metre, for every author wrote most naturally in verse.
While this verse was always elegant and musical, prose, for
want of practice, was awkward and involved. To us it seems
curious that writers found prose, like Saul's armour to David,
only an incumbrance, and were ever ready to throw it off for the
freedom of action granted to them by rules of prosody; yet
such was undoubtedly the case. As explained in the chapter
on Languages (Vol. I, ch. vii), the general employment of prose
in the vernacular was due to English influence and to the need
for elementary reading-books for the younger servants of the
Company. The first writers advanced with hesitating steps,
but a century of practice has given facility and a confident
sense of progress. The vernacular prose of the present day is
very different from that of a century ago, though, strange to say,
few Europeans are aware of the fact, and we find textbooks still
in use for Government examinations which were written in the
days of the Marquis Wellesley.
1 With this transfer of the purely spiritual conception of an energic
power to the grosser one of a divine female, compare the Trinity of early
Arab Christianity-Father, Son, and Virgin-Mother.