Arthur W. Ryder
Arthur William Ryder (March 8, 1877 – March 21, 1938) was a professor of Sanskrit at the University of California, Berkeley. He is best known for translating a number of Sanskrit works into English, including the Panchatantra and the Bhagavad Gita. In the words of G. R. Noyes,
Taken as a whole, Ryder's work as a translator is probably the finest ever accomplished by an American. It is also probably the finest body of translation from the Sanskrit ever accomplished by one man, if translation be regarded as a branch of literary art, not merely as a faithful rendering of the meaning of the original text.
Ryder was born on March 8, 1877 at Oberlin, Ohio in the United States. He had his early education at Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, from which he graduated in June 1894, to join Harvard University. He got his A.B. degree from Harvard in June 1897. After teaching Latin and literature at Andover for a year, he went to Germany for graduate studies. He studied at the University of Berlin and the University of Leipzig, from which he got the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in 1901, with a dissertation on the Rbhus in the Ṛgveda. He was an instructor in Sanskrit at Harvard University from 1902 until January 1906, when he moved to the University of California at Berkeley, as an instructor in Sanskrit and German. He became an Instructor in Sanskrit only later in the same year, became Assistant Professor in 1908, Associate Professor in 1919, and Professor in 1925. From his arrival at Berkeley until his death, Sanskrit was a separate department with Ryder as chairman and sole member, after which it was absorbed into the Department of Classics.
He was a member of the American Oriental Society and the American Philological Association. It is also said that he was at one time ranked one of the two best chess players on the Pacific Coast.
In 1905, when still at Harvard, Ryder translated Śudraka's Mṛcchakatika into English as The Little Clay Cart. He translated Kālidāsa's Abhijñānaśākuntalam, Meghadūta, and other works, as well as the Bhagavad Gita and several volumes of verse translated from works by Bhartṛhari and others. His prose translations included the Panchatantra in 1925, excerpts from which were published as Gold's Gloom, Daṇḍin's Daśakumāracarita as The Ten Princes of Dandin, and Twenty-Two Goblins, a translation of Vetala Panchavimshati. He also wrote excellent original verse which he circulated privately, but did not publish. Some verses from his translations were set to music. His Little Clay Cart and Shakuntala were enacted at the Hearst Greek Theatre in Berkeley in 1907 and 1914 respectively, being the only Indian dramas performed there until 2004. Shakuntala was also performed in a natural amphitheatre on top of Mount Tamalpais, California, under the management of the Mountain Play Association. His Little Clay Cart was also enacted in New York in 1924 at the Neighborhood Playhouse, which was then an off-Broadway theatre, at the Theater de Lys in 1953, and at the Potboiler Art Theater in Los Angeles in 1926, when it featured actors such as James A. Marcus, Symona Boniface and Gale Gordon. Following his death in 1938, some of his original poems were published in a posthumous memorial volume with a biography, along with several of his translated verses. This was the only book of original poetry published by the University of California Press for several decades.
Views on scholarship and education
He was known for his love of the language, preferring to publish whatever most delighted him, rather than scholarly articles. In fact, he was outspoken in his contempt for such articles, holding the view that Sanskrit ought to be studied not for philological reasons, but for the great literature it opened.
Scholarship is less than senseTherefore seek intelligence.
At a time when the university curriculum was undergoing upheavals, Ryder was a staunch defender of the traditional system of education in the Classics. In his ideal world, the university curriculum would have been mostly limited to Latin, Greek, and mathematics, with subjects like history, philosophy, physics, and languages like Sanskrit, Hebrew, German, and French being allowed to serious students only later, as a sort of reward. The then-new disciplines like psychology and sociology were dismissed "out of hand as not worth damning."
Style of translation
His translations were noted for their high fidelity to the originals despite his practice of translating into lively and natural conversational language using rhyme and modern English idiom:
Your nature is a thing you cannot beat;
It serves as guide in everything you do:
Give a dog all the meat that he can eat
You can't prevent his gnawing at a shoe.—from the Hitopadesha.
In particular, his translation of the Shakuntala was regarded as the best at the time, his "accurate and charming" translation of the Panchatantra remains popular and highly regarded, while his translation of the Bhagavad Gita was not so successful.
Despite being described as a "a loner with a caustic wit", as an educator he was encouraging and generous toward students, and consequently he found many devoted students. Harold F. Cherniss described him as "a friend half divine in his great humanity". When Anthony Boucher, who had been a student of his at Berkeley, wrote his novel The Case of the Seven of Calvary, he based the lead character of "Dr. Ashwin", professor of Sanskrit, after Ryder. (Ashvin is a Sanskrit word meaning a "rider".)
Another of his devoted students was J. Robert Oppenheimer. In 1933, Oppenheimer, then 29, was a young physics professor at Berkeley and studied Sanskrit under Ryder. Ryder introduced him to the Bhagavad Gita, which they read together in the original language. Later Oppenheimer cited it as one of the most influential books to shape his philosophy of life, famously recalling the Gita at the Trinity test. He described his teacher thus:
"Ryder felt and thought and talked as a Stoic ... a special subclass of the people who have a tragic sense of life, in that they attribute to human actions the completely decisive role in the difference between salvation and damnation. Ryder knew that a man could commit irretrievable error, and that in the face of this fact, all others were secondary." Tartly intolerant of humbug, laziness, stupidity and deceit, Ryder thought that "Any man who does a hard thing well is automatically respectable and worthy of respect."
Although Ryder disdained "scholarship", he published a few scholarly papers early in his career.
- Arthur William Ryder (1901), Die Ṛbhu's im Ṛgveda., Druck von C. Bertelsmann. Dissertation (in German).
- Ryder, Arthur W. (1902), "Note on bṛhácchandas, AV. iii. 12. 3", Journal of the American Oriental Society (American Oriental Society) 23: 77–78, doi:10.2307/592381, ISSN 0003-0279, JSTOR 592381.
- Ryder, Arthur W. (1902), "Krṣṇanātha's Commentary on the Bengal Recension of the Çakuntalā", Journal of the American Oriental Society (American Oriental Society) 23: 79–83, doi:10.2307/592382, ISSN 0003-0279, JSTOR 592382.
- Ryder, Arthur W. (1906), "Notes on the Mṛcchakaṭika", Journal of the American Oriental Society (American Oriental Society) 27: 418–454, doi:10.2307/592869, ISSN 0003-0279, JSTOR 592869.
Besides books, some were published in the University of California chronicle.
- Śudraka; Arthur William Ryder (1905), The little clay cart (Mrcchakatika): A Hindu drama attributed to King Shūdraka, Harvard Oriental Series
- Ryder, A.W. (1908), "The Old Tiger and the Traveller", University of California chronicle 10: 450–453. A story translated from the Hitopadesha.
- Bhartṛhari; Arthur William Ryder (1910), Women's Eyes, A.M. Robertson
- Kālidāsa; Arthur W. Ryder (1912), Kalidasa: Translations of Shakuntala, and Other Works, J. M. Dent & sons, ltd.
- Kālidāsa; Arthur William Ryder; Garnet Holme (1914), Shakuntala: an acting version in three acts
- Kālidāsa; Arthur W. Ryder (1915), "Malavika: A Five-act Comedy of Kalidasa", University of California chronicle 17: 123–167
- Arthur W. Ryder (1917), "Fables from the Hitopadeça", University of California chronicle, 19, (Jan.): 15–29
- Arthur W. Ryder (1917), "Lovers' Meeting", University of California chronicle, 19, (Oct.): 364–76. Translated from Kathāsaritsāgara, Canto 104, which inspired the plot of Bhavabhuti's drama Mālati-mādhava.
- Arthur W. Ryder (1917), Twenty-two Goblins: With 20 Illustrations, J.M. Dent
- Arthur William Ryder (1919), Relatives: Being Further Verses Translated from the Sanskrit, A.M. Robertson
- Arthur W. Ryder (1925), The Panchatantra, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 81-7224-080-5
- Arthur W. Ryder (1925), Gold's gloom: tales from the Panchatantra, University of Chicago Press
- Daṇḍin; Arthur William Ryder (1927), Dandin's Dasha-kumara-charita: The ten princes, University of Chicago Press
- Arthur William Ryder (1929), The Bhagavad-gita, The University of Chicago Press
- Arthur William Ryder; George Rapall Noyes (1939), Original poems: together with translations from the Sanskrit, University of California Press
- University of California: In Memoriam 1938
- George Rapall Noyes (1939), "Arthur William Ryder", Original Poems, together with translations from the Sanskrit, University of California Press
- Joseph Fontenrose (January 1, 1982), Classics at Berkeley: The First Century 1869–1970, Department of Classics, UCB
- John W. Leonard; Albert Nelson Marquis (1913), Who's who in America, Marquis Who's Who, p. 1816
- Scott Alan Burgess, ed. (1993), Adventures of a freelancer: the literary exploits and autobiography of Stanton A. Coblentz, Wildside Press LLC, pp. 37–38, ISBN 978-0-89370-438-4
- Charles Johnston (February 23, 1930), "A New Translation of The Bhagavad-Gita", The New York Times: 68
- "The Wisdom of Kashmir", The New York Times, October 18, 1925: E4
- Charles Johnston (November 29, 1925), "In India Too There Lived An Uncle Remus: Ancient Tales of the Panchatantra Now Appear in English", The New York Times: BR2
- Lied and Art Song Texts Page
- Sudipto Chatterjee, South Asian American Theatre: (Un/Re-)Painting the Town Brown
- "Hindu Drama on a California Mountain-Side". The Independent. Jul 20, 1914. Retrieved August 23, 2012.
- "PROF. A. W. RYDER, OF SANSKRIT FAME", The New York Times, March 22, 1938
- Lauren Hobbs Sexton, The Distance Traveled: Little Clay Cart in Athens, Georgia
- Milton Bracker (June 7, 1953), "Story of a Determined Lady", The New York Times: X3
- Edwin Schallert (December 9, 1926), "'Clay-Cart' Hero Wins: 'Twas Ever Thus—Even in the Sanskrit", The Los Angeles Times: A9
- August Frugé (1993), "Chapter 15: The Poetry-Hating Director", A Skeptic Among Scholars: August Frugé on University Publishing, University of California Press, p. 217
- Eda Lou Walton (November 19, 1939), "Translations from the Sanskrit epics", The New York Times: BR2
- Henry F. May (1993), Three Faces of Berkeley: Competing Ideologies in the Wheeler Era, 1899-1919, Center for Studies in Higher Education and Institute of Governmental Studies, University of California, Berkeley, ISBN 978-0-87772-342-4
- "The Eternal Apprentice", TIME, November 8, 1948: 75
- Grierson, George Abraham (1906), Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland, Cambridge University Press for the Royal Asiatic Society, p. 259
- Harvey Clarke (February 3, 1926), "'The Panchatantra' is translated by Arthur W. Ryder", St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, Florida)
- Murray, M. A. (1956-06), "Review: The Panchatantra", Folklore (Folklore Enterprises, Ltd.) 67 (2): 118–120, ISSN 0015-587X, JSTOR 1258527.
- Kees W. Bolle (1979), The Bhagavadgītā: a new translation, University of California Press, p. 222, ISBN 978-0-520-03741-0
- G. L. Anderson, 1959: "Arthur W. Ryder's translation of Kalidasa's work is the best in English, though Monier Williams' translation of 'Shakuntala' is satisfactory and Sir William Jones' (1789) is still worth reading." Cited in Cannon; Pandey (1976). "Sir William Jones Revisited: on His Translation of the Śakuntalā". Journal of the American Oriental Society 96 (4): 528–535. doi:10.2307/600085. JSTOR 600085.
- Gerald James Larson, The Song Celestial: Two Centuries of the "Bhagavad Gītā" in English
- Hijiya, James A. (June 2000), "The Gita of Robert Oppenheimer" (PDF), Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 144 (2)
- Works by Arthur William Ryder at Project Gutenberg / Works by Arthur W. Ryder at Project Gutenberg
- The Little Clay Cart at Project Gutenberg
- Translations of Shakuntala and Other Works by Kalidasa at Project Gutenberg
- Twenty-Two Goblins at Project Gutenberg
- Works at the Internet Sacred Text Archive:
- Works by Arthur Ryder at the Internet Archive
- Works by or about Arthur W. Ryder in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- The Panchatantra of Vishnu Sarma: English Translation, at Hinduism E-Books