The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, by John Mandeville

Chapter XXXIV

Of the Customs of Kings and Other that Dwell in the Isles Coasting to Prester John’s Land. And of the Worship that the Son Doth to the Father when he is Dead

FROM those isles that I have spoken of before, in the Land of Prester John, that be under earth as to us that be on this half, and of other isles that be more further beyond, whoso will, pursue them for to come again right to the parts that he came from, and so environ all earth. But what for the isles, what for the sea, and what for strong rowing, few folk assay for to pass that passage; albeit that men might do it well, that might be of power to dress them thereto, as I have said you before. And therefore men return from those isles abovesaid by other isles, coasting from the land of Prester John.

And then come men in returning to an isle that is clept Casson. And that isle hath well sixty journeys in length, and more than fifty in breadth. This is the best isle and the best kingdom that is in all those parts, out-taken Cathay. And if the merchants used as much that country as they do Cathay, it would be better than Cathay in a short while. This country is full well inhabited, and so full of cities and of good towns inhabited with people, that when a man goeth out of one city, men see another city even before them; and that is what part that a man go, in all that country. In that isle is great plenty of all goods for to live with, and of all manner of spices. And there be great forests of chestnuts. The king of that isle is full rich and full mighty, and, natheles, he holds his land of the great Chan, and is obeissant to him. For it is one of the twelve provinces that the great Chan hath under him without his proper land, and without other less isles that he hath; for he hath full many.

From that kingdom come men, in returning, to another isle that is clept Rybothe, and it is also under the great Chan. That is a full good country, and full plenteous of all goods and of wines and fruit and all other riches. And the folk of that country have no houses, but they dwell and lie all under tents made of black fern, by all the country. And the principal city and the most royal is all walled with black stone and white. And all the streets also be pathed of the same stones. In that city is no man so hardy to shed blood of any man, ne of no beast, for the reverence of an idol that is worshipped there. And in that isle dwelleth the pope of their law, that they clepe Lobassy. This Lobassy giveth all the benefices, and all other dignities and all other things that belong to the idol. And all those that hold anything of their churches, religious and other, obey to him, as men do here to the Pope of Rome.

In that isle they have a custom by all the country, that when the father is dead of any man, and the son list to do great worship to his father, he sendeth to all his friends and to all his kin, and for religious men and priests, and for minstrels also, great plenty. And then men bear the dead body unto a great hill with great joy and solemnity. And when they have brought it thither, the chief prelate smiteth off the head, and layeth it upon a great platter of gold and of silver, if so [he] be a rich man. And then he taketh the head to the son. And then the son and his other kin sing and say many orisons. And then the priests and the religious men smite all the body of the dead man in pieces. And then they say certain orisons. And the fowls of ravine of all the country about know the custom of long time before, [and] come flying above in the air; as eagles, gledes, ravens and other fowls of ravine, that eat flesh. And then the priests cast the gobbets of the flesh and then the fowls, each of them, taketh that he may, and goeth a little thence and eateth it; and so they do whilst any piece lasteth of the dead body.

And after that, as priests amongst us sing for the dead, SUBVENITE SANCTI DEI, ETC., right so the priests sing with high voice in their language; Behold how so worthy a man and how good a man this was, that the angels of God come for to seek him and for to bring him into Paradise. And then seemeth it to the son, that he is highly worshipped, when that many birds and fowls and ravens come and eat his father; and he that hath most number of fowls is most worshipped.

And then the son bringeth home with him all his kin, and his friends, and all the others to his house, and maketh them a great feast. And then all his friends make their vaunt and their dalliance, how the fowls came thither, here five, here six, here ten, and there twenty, and so forth; and they rejoice them hugely for to speak thereof. And when they be at meat, the son let bring forth the head of his father, and thereof he giveth of the flesh to his most special friends, instead of ENTRE MESSE, or a SUKKARKE. And of the brain pan, he letteth make a cup, and thereof drinketh he and his other friends also, with great devotion, in remembrance of the holy man, that the angels of God have eaten. And that cup the son shall keep to drink of all his life-time, in remembrance of his father.

From that land, in returning by ten journeys throughout the land of the great Chan, is another good isle and a great kingdom, where the king is full rich and mighty.

And amongst the rich men of his country is a passing rich man, that is no prince, ne duke, ne earl, but he hath more that hold of him lands and other lordships, for he is more rich. For he hath, every year, of annual rent 300,000 horses charged with corn of diverse grains and of rice. And so he leadeth a full noble life and a delicate, after the custom of the country. For he hath, every day, fifty fair damosels, all maidens, that serve him evermore at his meat, and for to lie by him o’ night, and for to do with them that is to his pleasance. And when he is at table, they bring him his meat at every time, five and five together; and in bringing their service they sing a song. And after that, they cut his meat, and put it in his mouth; for he toucheth nothing, ne handleth nought, but holdeth evermore his hands before him upon the table. For he hath so long nails, that he may take nothing, ne handle nothing. For the noblesse of that country is to have long nails, and to make them grow always to be as long as men may. And there be many in that country, that have their nails so long, that they environ all the hand. And that is a great noblesse. And the noblesse of the women is for to have small feet and little. And therefore anon as they be born, they let bind their feet so strait, that they may not grow half as nature would. And this is the noblesse of the women there to have small feet and little. And always these damosels, that I spake of before, sing all the time that this rich man eateth. And when that he eateth no more of his first course, then other five and five of fair damsels bring him his second course, always singing as they did before. And so they do continually every day to the end of his meat. And in this manner he leadeth his life. And so did they before him, that were his ancestors. And so shall they that come after him, without doing of any deeds of arms, but live evermore thus in ease, as a. swine that is fed in sty for to be made fat. He hath a full fair palace and full rich, where that he dwelleth in, of the which the walls be, in circuit, two mile. And he hath within many fair gardens, and many fair halls and chambers; and the pavement of his halls and chambers be of gold and silver. And in the mid place of one of his gardens is a little mountain, where there is a little meadow. And in that meadow is a little toothill with towers and pinnacles, all of gold. And in that little toothill will he sit often-time, for to take the air and to disport him. For the place is made for nothing else, but only for his disport.

From that country men come by the land of the great Chan also, that I have spoken of before.

And ye shall understand, that of all these countries, and of all these isles, and of all the diverse folk, that I have spoken of before, and of diverse laws, and of diverse beliefs that they have, yet is there none of them all but that they have some reason within them and understanding, but if it be the fewer, and that have certain articles of our faith and some good points of our belief, and that they believe in God, that formed all things and made the world, and clepe him God of Nature; after that the prophet saith, ET METUENT EUM OMNES FINES TERRAE, and also in another place, OMNES GENTES SERVIENT EI, that is to say, ‘All folk shall serve him.’

But yet they cannot speak perfectly (for there is no man to teach them), but only that they can devise by their natural wit. For they have no knowledge of the Son, ne of the Holy Ghost. But they can all speak of the Bible, and namely of Genesis, of the prophet’s saws and of the books of Moses. And they say well, that the creatures that they worship ne be no gods; but they worship them for the virtue that is in them, that may not be but only by the grace of God. And of simulacres and of idols, they say, that there be no folk, but that they have simulacres. And that they say, for we Christian men have images, as of our Lady and of other saints that we worship; not the images of tree or of stone, but the saints, in whose name they be made after. For right as the books and the scripture of them teach the clerks how and in what manner they shall believe, right so the images and the paintings teach the lewd folk to worship the saints and to have them in their mind, in whose names that the images be made after. They say also, that the angels of God speak to them in those idols, and that they do many great miracles. And they say sooth, that there is an angel within them. For there be two manner of angels, a good and an evil, as the Greeks say, Cacho and Calo. This Cacho is the wicked angel, and Calo is the good angel. But the tother is not the good angel, but the wicked angel that is within the idols to deceive them and for to maintain them in their error.

There be many other divers countries and many other marvels beyond, that I have not seen. Wherefore, of them I cannot speak properly to tell you the manner of them. And also in the countries where I have been, be many more diversities of many wonderful things than I make mention of; for it were too long thing to devise you the manner. And therefore, that that I have devised you of certain countries, that I have spoken of before, I beseech your worthy and excellent noblesse, that it suffice to you at this time. For if that I devised you all that is beyond the sea, another man, peradventure, that would pain him and travail his body for to go into those marches for to ensearch those countries, might be blamed by my words in rehearsing many strange things; for he might not say nothing of new, in the which the hearers might have either solace, or disport, or lust, or liking in the hearing. For men say always, that new things and new tidings be pleasant to hear. Wherefore I will hold me still, without any more rehearsing of diversities or of marvels that be beyond, to that intent and end, that whoso will go into those countries, he shall find enough to speak of, that I have not touched of in no wise.

And ye shall understand, if it like you, that at mine home-coming, I came to Rome, and shewed my life to our holy father the pope, and was assoiled of all that lay in my conscience, of many a diverse grievous point; as men must needs that be in company, dwelling amongst so many a diverse folk of diverse sect and of belief, as I have been.

And amongst all I shewed him this treatise, that I had made after information of men that knew of things that I had not seen myself, and also of marvels and customs that I had seen myself, as far as God would give me grace; and besought his holy fatherhood, that my book might be examined and corrected by advice of his wise and discreet council. And our holy father, of his special grace, remitted my book to be examined and proved by the advice of his said counsel. By the which my book was proved for true, insomuch, that they shewed me a book, that my book was examined by, that comprehended full much more, by an hundred part, by the which the MAPPA MUNDI was made after. And so my book (albeit that many men ne list not to give credence to nothing, but to that that they see with their eye, ne be the author ne the person never so true) is affirmed and proved by our holy father, in manner and form as I have said.

And I, John Mandevile, knight, abovesaid (although I be unworthy), that departed from our countries and passed the sea, the year of grace a thousand three hundred and twenty two, that have passed many lands and many isles and countries, and searched many full strange places, and have been in many a full good honourable company, and at many a fair deed of arms (albeit that I did none myself, for mine unable insuffisance), now I am come home, maugre myself, to rest, for gouts artetykes that me distrain, that define the end of my labour; against my will (God knoweth).

And thus, taking solace in my wretched rest, recording the time passed, I have fulfilled these things, and put them written in this book, as it would come into my mind, the year of grace a thousand three hundred and fifty six, in the thirty-fourth year, that I departed from our countries.

Wherefore, I pray to all the readers and hearers of this book, if it please them, that they would pray to God for me; and I shall pray for them. And all those that say for me a PATER NOSTER, with an AVE MARIA, that God forgive me my sins, I make them partners, and grant them part of all the good pilgrimages and of all the good deeds that I have done, if any be to his pleasance; and not only of those, but of all that ever I shall do unto my life’s end. And I beseech Almighty God, from whom all goodness and grace cometh from, that he vouchsafe of his excellent mercy and abundant grace, to fulfil their souls with inspiration of the Holy Ghost, in making defence of all their ghostly enemies here in earth, to their salvation both of body and soul; to worship and thanking of him, that is three and one, without beginning and without ending; that is without quality, good, without quantity, great; that in all places is present, and all things containing; the which that no goodness may amend, ne none evil impair; that in perfect Trinity liveth and reigneth God, by all worlds, and by all times!

AMEN! AMEN! AMEN!

[Here Endeth the Book of John Mandeville.]

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 23:10