The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Preface to Second Edition.

The unexpected amount of favour bestowed on the former edition of this Work has been a great encouragement to the Editor in preparing this second one.

Not a few of the kind friends and correspondents who lent their aid before have continued it to the present revision. The contributions of Mr. A. WYLIE of Shang-hai, whether as regards the amount of labour which they must have cost him, or the value of the result, demand above all others a grateful record here. Nor can I omit to name again with hearty acknowledgment Signor Comm. G. BERCHET of Venice, the Rev. Dr. CALDWELL, Colonel (now Major–General) R. MACLAGAN, R.E., Mr. D. HANBURY, F.R.S., Mr. EDWARD THOMAS, F.R.S. (Corresponding Member of the Institute), and Mr. R. H. MAJOR.

But besides these old names, not a few new ones claim my thanks.

The Baron F. VON RICHTHOFEN, now President of the Geographical Society of Berlin, a traveller who not only has trodden many hundreds of miles in the footsteps of our Marco, but has perhaps travelled over more of the Interior of China than Marco ever did, and who carried to that survey high scientific accomplishments of which the Venetian had not even a rudimentary conception, has spontaneously opened his bountiful stores of new knowledge in my behalf. Mr. NEY ELIAS, who in 1872 traversed and mapped a line of upwards of 2000 miles through the almost unknown tracts of Western Mongolia, from the Gate in the Great Wall at Kalghan to the Russian frontier in the Altai, has done likewise.1 To the Rev. G. MOULE, of the Church Mission at Hang-chau, I owe a mass of interesting matter regarding that once great and splendid city, the KINSAY of our Traveller, which has enabled me, I trust, to effect great improvement both in the Notes and in the Map, which illustrate that subject. And to the Rev. CARSTAIRS DOUGLAS, LL.D., of the English Presbyterian Mission at Amoy, I am scarcely less indebted. The learned Professor BRUUN, of Odessa, whom I never have seen, and have little likelihood of ever seeing in this world, has aided me with zeal and cordiality like that of old friendship. To Mr. ARTHUR BURNELL, Ph.D., of the Madras Civil Service, I am grateful for many valuable notes bearing on these and other geographical studies, and particularly for his generous communication of the drawing and photograph of the ancient Cross at St. Thomas’s Mount, long before any publication of that subject was made on his own account. My brother officer, Major OLIVER ST. JOHN, R.E., has favoured me with a variety of interesting remarks regarding the Persian chapters, and has assisted me with new data, very materially correcting the Itinerary Map in Kerman.

Mr. BLOCHMANN of the Calcutta Madrasa, Sir DOUGLAS FORSYTH, C.B., lately Envoy to Kashgar, M. de MAS LATRIE, the Historian of Cyprus, Mr. ARTHUR GROTE, Mr. EUGENE SCHUYLER of the U.S. Legation at St. Petersburg, Dr. BUSHELL and Mr. W.F. MAYERS, of H.M.‘s Legation at Peking, Mr. G. PHILLIPS of Fuchau, Madame OLGA FEDTCHENKO, the widow of a great traveller too early lost to the world, Colonel KEATINGE, V.C., C.S.I., Major–General KEYES, C.B., Dr. GEORGE BIRDWOOD, Mr. BURGESS, of Bombay, my old and valued friend Colonel W. H. GREATHED, C.B., and the Master of Mediaeval Geography, M. D’AVEZAC himself, with others besides, have kindly lent assistance of one kind or another, several of them spontaneously, and the rest in prompt answer to my requests.

Having always attached much importance to the matter of illustrations,2 I feel greatly indebted to the liberal action of Mr. Murray in enabling me largely to increase their number in this edition. Though many are original, we have also borrowed a good many;3 a proceeding which seems to me entirely unobjectionable when the engravings are truly illustrative of the text, and not hackneyed.

I regret the augmented bulk of the volumes. There has been some excision, but the additions visibly and palpably preponderate. The truth is that since the completion of the first edition, just four years ago, large additions have been made to the stock of our knowledge bearing on the subjects of this Book; and how these additions have continued to come in up to the last moment, may be seen in Appendix L,4 which has had to undergo repeated interpolation after being put in type. KARAKORUM, for a brief space the seat of the widest empire the world has known, has been visited; the ruins of SHANG-TU, the “Xanadu of Cublay Khan,” have been explored; PAMIR and TANGUT have been penetrated from side to side; the famous mountain Road of SHEN-SI has been traversed and described; the mysterious CAINDU has been unveiled; the publication of my lamented friend Lieutenant Garnier’s great work on the French Exploration of Indo–China has provided a mass of illustration of that YUN-NAN for which but the other day Marco Polo was well-nigh the most recent authority. Nay, the last two years have thrown a promise of light even on what seemed the wildest of Marco’s stories, and the bones of a veritable RUC from New Zealand lie on the table of Professor Owen’s Cabinet!

M. VIVIEN de St. MARTIN, during the interval of which we have been speaking, has published a History of Geography. In treating of Marco Polo, he alludes to the first edition of this work, most evidently with no intention of disparagement, but speaks of it as merely a revision of Marsden’s Book. The last thing I should allow myself to do would be to apply to a Geographer, whose works I hold in so much esteem, the disrespectful definition which the adage quoted in my former Preface5 gives of the vir qui docet quod non sapit; but I feel bound to say that on this occasion M. Vivien de St. Martin has permitted himself to pronounce on a matter with which he had not made himself acquainted; for the perusal of the very first lines of the Preface (I will say nothing of the Book) would have shown him that such a notion was utterly unfounded.

In concluding these “forewords” I am probably taking leave of Marco Polo,6 the companion of many pleasant and some laborious hours, whilst I have been contemplating with him (“vôlti a levante”) that Orient in which I also had spent years not a few.

And as the writer lingered over this conclusion, his thoughts wandered back in reverie to those many venerable libraries in which he had formerly made search for mediaeval copies of the Traveller’s story; and it seemed to him as if he sate in a recess of one of these with a manuscript before him which had never till then been examined with any care, and which he found with delight to contain passages that appear in no version of the Book hitherto known. It was written in clear Gothic text, and in the Old French tongue of the early 14th century. Was it possible that he had lighted on the long-lost original of Ramusio’s Version? No; it proved to be different. Instead of the tedious story of the northern wars, which occupies much of our Fourth Book, there were passages occurring in the later history of Ser Marco, some years after his release from the Genoese captivity. They appeared to contain strange anachronisms certainly; but we have often had occasion to remark on puzzles in the chronology of Marco’s story!7 And in some respects they tended to justify our intimated suspicion that he was a man of deeper feelings and wider sympathies than the book of Rusticiano had allowed to appear.8 Perhaps this time the Traveller had found an amanuensis whose faculties had not been stiffened by fifteen years of Malapaga?9 One of the most important passages ran thus:—

“Bien est voirs que, après ce que Messires Marc Pol avoit pris fame et si estoit demouré plusours ans de sa vie a Venysse, il avint que mourut Messires Mafés qui oncles Monseignour Marc estoit: (et mourut ausi ses granz chiens mastins qu’avoit amenei dou Catai,10 et qui avoit non Bayan pour l’amour au bon chievetain Bayan Cent-iex); adonc n’avoit oncques puis Messires Marc nullui, fors son esclave Piere le Tartar, avecques lequel pouvoit penre soulas à s’entretenir de ses voiages et des choses dou Levant. Car la gent de Venysse si avoit de grant piesce moult anuy pris des loncs contes Monseignour Marc; et quand ledit Messires Marc issoit de l’uys sa meson ou Sain Grisostome, souloient li petit marmot es voies dariere-li courir en cryant Messer Marco Miliòn! cont’ a nu un busiòn! que veult dire en François ‘Messires Marcs des millions di-nous un de vos gros mensonges.’ En oultre, la Dame Donate fame anuyouse estoit, et de trop estroit esprit, et plainne de couvoitise.11 Ansi avint que Messires Marc desiroit es voiages rantrer durement.

“Si se partist de Venisse et chevaucha aux parties d’occident. Et demoura mainz jours es contrées de Provence et de France et puys fist passaige aux Ysles de la tremontaingne et s’en retourna par la Magne, si comme vous orrez cy-après. Et fist-il escripre son voiage atout les devisements les contrées; mes de la France n’y parloit mie grantment pour ce que maintes genz la scevent apertement. Et pour ce en lairons atant, et commencerons d’autres choses, assavoir, de BRETAINGNE LA GRANT.”

Cy devyse dou roiaume de Bretaingne la grant.

“Et sachiés que quand l’en se part de Calés, et l’en nage XX ou XXX milles à trop grant mesaise, si treuve l’en une grandisme Ysle qui s’apelle Bretaingne la Grant. Elle est à une grant royne et n’en fait treuage à nulluy. Et ensevelissent lor mors, et ont monnoye de chartres et d’or et d’argent, et ardent pierres noyres, et vivent de marchandises et d’ars, et ont toutes choses de vivre en grant habondance mais non pas à bon marchié. Et c’est une Ysle de trop grant richesce, et li marinier de celle partie dient que c’est li plus riches royaumes qui soit ou monde, et qu’il y a li mieudre marinier dou monde et li mieudre coursier et li mieudre chevalier (ains ne chevauchent mais lonc com François). Ausi ont-il trop bons homes d’armes et vaillans durement (bien que maint n’y ait), et les dames et damoseles bonnes et loialles, et belles com lys souef florant. Et quoi vous en diroie-je? Il y a citez et chasteau assez, et tant de marchéanz et si riches qui font venir tant d’avoir-depoiz et de toute espece de marchandise qu’il n’est hons qui la verité en sceust dire. Font venir d’Ynde et d’autres parties coton a grant planté, et font venir soye de Manzi et de Bangala, et font venir laine des ysles de la Mer Occeane et de toutes parties. Et si labourent maintz bouquerans et touailles et autres draps de coton et de laine et de soye. Encores sachiés que ont vaines d’acier assez, et si en labourent trop soubtivement de tous hernois de chevalier, et de toutes choses besoignables à ost; ce sont espées et glaive et esperon et heaume et haches, et toute espèce d arteillerie et de coutelerie, et en font grant gaaigne et grant marchandise. Et en font si grant habondance que tout li mondes en y puet avoir et à bon marchié”.

Encores cy devise dou dyt roiaume, et de ce qu’en dist Messires Marcs.

“Et sachiés que tient icelle Royne la seigneurie de l’Ynde majeure et de Mutfili et de Bangala, et d’une moitié de Mien. Et moult est saige et noble dame et pourvéans, si que est elle amée de chascun. Et avoit jadis mari; et depuys qu’il mourut bien XIV ans avoit; adonc la royne sa fame l’ama tant que oncques puis ne se voult marier a nullui, pour l’amour le prince son baron, ançois moult maine quoye vie. Et tient son royaume ausi bien ou miex que oncques le tindrent li roy si aioul. Mes ores en ce royaume li roy n’ont guieres pooir, ains la poissance commence a trespasser à la menue gent Et distrent aucun marinier de celes parties à Monseignour Marc que hui-et-le jour li royaumes soit auques abastardi come je vous diroy. Car bien est voirs que ci-arrières estoit ciz pueple de Bretaingne la Grant bonne et granz et loialle gent qui servoit Diex moult volontiers selonc lor usaige; et tuit li labour qu’il labouroient et portoient a vendre estoient honnestement labouré, et dou greigneur vaillance, et chose pardurable; et se vendoient à jouste pris sanz barguignier. En tant que se aucuns labours portoit l’estanpille Bretaingne la Grant c’estoit regardei com pleges de bonne estoffe. Mes orendroit li labours n’est mie tousjourz si bons; et quand l’en achate pour un quintal pesant de toiles de coton, adonc, par trop souvent, si treuve l’en de chascun C pois de coton, bien XXX ou XL pois de plastre de gifs, ou de blanc d’Espaigne, ou de choses semblables. Et se l’en achate de cammeloz ou de tireteinne ou d’autre dras de laine, cist ne durent mie, ains sont plain d’empoise, ou de glu et de balieures.

“Et bien qu’il est voirs que chascuns hons egalement doit de son cors servir son seigneur ou sa commune, pour aler en ost en tens de besoingne; et bien que trestuit li autre royaume d’occident tieingnent ce pour ordenance, ciz pueple de Bretaingne la Grant n’en veult nullement, ains si dient: ‘Veez-là: n’avons nous pas la Manche pour fossé de nostre pourpris, et pourquoy nous penerons-nous pour nous faire homes d’armes, en lessiant nos gaaignes et nos soulaz? Cela lairons aus soudaiers.’ Or li preudhome entre eulx moult scevent bien com tiex paroles sont nyaises; mes si ont paour de lour en dire la verité pour ce que cuident desplaire as bourjois et à la menue gent.

“Or je vous di sanz faille que, quand Messires Marcs Pols sceust ces choses, moult en ot pitié de cestui pueple, et il li vint à remembrance ce que avenu estoit, ou tens Monseignour Nicolas et Monseignour Mafé, à l’ore quand Alau, frère charnel dou Grant Sire Cublay, ala en ost seur Baudas, et print le Calife et sa maistre cité, atout son vaste tresor d’or et d’argent, et l’amère parolle que dist ledit Alau au Calife, com l’a escripte li Maistres Rusticiens ou chief de cestui livre.12

“Car sachiés tout voirement que Messires Marc moult se deleitoit à faire appert combien sont pareilles au font les condicions des diverses regions dou monde, et soloit-il clorre son discours si disant en son language de Venisse: ‘Sto mondo xe fato tondo, com uzoit dire mes oncles Mafés.’

“Ore vous lairons à conter de ceste matière et retournerons à parler de la Loy des genz de Bretaingne la Grant.

Cy devise des diverses créances de la gent Bretaingne la Grant et de ce qu’en cuidoit Messires Marcs.

“Il est voirs que li pueples est Crestiens, mes non pour le plus selonc la foy de l’Apostoille Rommain, ains tiennent le en mautalent assez. Seulement il y en a aucun qui sont féoil du dit Apostoille et encore plus forment que li nostre prudhome de Venisse. Car quand dit li Papes: ‘Telle ou telle chose est noyre,’ toute ladite gent si en jure: ‘Noyre est com poivre.’ Et puis se dira li Papes de la dite chose: ‘Elle est blanche,’ si en jurera toute ladite gent: ‘Il est voirs qu’elle est blanche; blanche est com noifs.’ Et dist Messires Marc Pol: ‘Nous n’avons nullement tant de foy à Venyse, ne li prudhome de Florence non plus, com l’en puet savoir bien apertement dou livre Monseignour Dantès Aldiguiere, que j’ay congneu a Padoe le meisme an que Messires Thibault de Cepoy à Venisse estoit.13 Mes c’est joustement ce que j’ay veu autre foiz près le Grant Bacsi qui est com li Papes des Ydres.’

“Encore y a une autre manière de gent; ce sont de celz qui s’appellent filsoufes;14 et si il disent: ‘S’il y a Diex n’en scavons nul, mes il est voirs qu’il est une certeinne courance des choses laquex court devers le bien.’ Et fist Messires Marcs: ‘Encore la créance des Bacsi qui dysent que n’y a ne Diex Eternel ne Juge des homes, ains il est une certeinne chose laquex s’apelle Kerma.’15

“Une autre foiz avint que disoit un des filsoufes à Monseignour Marc: ‘Diex n’existe mie jeusqu’ores, ainçois il se fait desorendroit.’ Et fist encore Messires Marcs: ‘Veez-là, une autre foiz la créance des ydres, car dient que li seuz Diex est icil hons qui par force de ses vertuz et de son savoir tant pourchace que d’home il se face Diex presentement. Et li Tartar l’appelent Borcan. Tiex Diex Sagamoni Borcan estoit, dou quel parle li livres Maistre Rusticien.’16

“Encore ont une autre manière de filsoufes, et dient-il: ‘Il n’est mie ne Diex ne Kerma ne courance vers le bien, ne Providence, ne Créerres, ne Sauvours, ne sainteté ne pechiés ne conscience de pechié, ne proyère ne response à proyère, il n’est nulle riens fors que trop minime grain ou paillettes qui ont à nom atosmes, et de tiex grains devient chose qui vive, et chose qui vive devient une certeinne creature qui demoure au rivaige de la Mer: et ceste creature devient poissons, et poissons devient lezars, et lezars devient blayriaus, et blayriaus devient gat-maimons, et gat-maimons devient hons sauvaiges qui menjue char d’homes, et hons sauvaiges devient hons crestien.’

“Et dist Messires Marc: ‘Encore une foiz, biaus sires, li Bacsi de Tebet et de Kescemir et li prestre de Seilan, qui si dient que l’arme vivant doie trespasser par tous cez changes de vestemens; si com se treuve escript ou livre Maistre Rusticien que Sagamoni Borcan mourut iiij vint et iiij foiz et tousjourz resuscita, et à chascune foiz d’une diverse manière de beste, et à la derreniere foyz mourut hons et devint diex, selonc ce qu’il dient.’17 Et fist encore Messires Marc: ‘A moy pert-il trop estrange chose se juesques à toutes les créances des ydolastres deust dechéoir ceste grantz et saige nation. Ainsi peuent jouer Misire li filsoufe atout lour propre perte, mes à l’ore quand tiex fantaisies se respanderont es joenes bacheliers et parmy la menue gent, celz averont pour toute Loy manducemus et bibamus, cras enim moriemur; et trop isnellement l’en raccomencera la descente de l’eschiele, et d’home crestien deviendra hons sauvaiges, et d’home sauvaige gat-maimons, et de gat-maimon blayriaus.’ Et fist encores Messires Marc: ‘Maintes contrées et provinces et ysles et citéz je Marc Pol ay veues et de maintes genz de maintes manières ay les condicionz congneues, et je croy bien que il est plus assez dedens l’univers que ce que li nostre prestre n’y songent. Et puet bien estre, biaus sires, que li mondes n’a estés creés à tous poinz com nous creiens, ains d’une sorte encore plus merveillouse. Mes cil n’amenuise nullement nostre pensée de Diex et de sa majesté, ains la fait greingnour. Et contrée n’ay veue ou Dame Diex ne manifeste apertement les granz euvres de sa tout-poissante saigesse; gent n’ay congneue esquiex ne se fait sentir li fardels de pechié, et la besoingne de Phisicien des maladies de l’arme tiex com est nostre Seignours Ihesus Crist, Beni soyt son Non. Pensez doncques à cel qu’a dit uns de ses Apostres: Nolite esse prudentes apud vosmet ipsos; et uns autres: Quoniam multi pseudo-prophetae exierint; et uns autres: Quod benient in nobissimis diebus illusores . . . dicentes, Ubi est promissio? et encores aus parolles que dist li Signours meismes: Vide ergo ne lumen quod in te est tenebrae sint.

Commant Messires Marcs se partist de l’ysle de Bretaingne et de la proyère que fist.

“Et pourquoy vous en feroie-je lonc conte? Si print nef Messires Marcs et se partist en nageant vers la terre ferme. Or Messires Marc Pol moult ama cel roiaume de Bretaingne la grant pour son viex renon et s’ancienne franchise, et pour sa saige et bonne Royne (que Diex gart), et pour les mainz homes de vaillance et bons chaceours et les maintes bonnes et honnestes dames qui y estoient. Et sachiés tout voirement que en estant delez le bort la nef, et en esgardant aus roches blanches que l’en par dariere-li lessoit, Messires Marc prieoit Diex, et disoit-il: ‘Ha Sires Diex ay merci de cestuy vieix et noble royaume; fay-en pardurable forteresse de liberté et de joustice, et garde-le de tout meschief de dedens et de dehors; donne à sa gent droit esprit pour ne pas Diex guerroyer de ses dons, ne de richesce ne de savoir; et conforte-les fermement en ta foy’. . . . ”

A loud Amen seemed to peal from without, and the awakened reader started to his feet. And lo! it was the thunder of the winter-storm crashing among the many-tinted crags of Monte Pellegrino — with the wind raging as it knows how to rage here in sight of the Isles of Aeolus, and the rain dashing on the glass as ruthlessly as it well could have done, if, instead of Aeolic Isles and many-tinted crags, the window had fronted a dearer shore beneath a northern sky, and looked across the grey Firth to the rain-blurred outline of the Lomond Hills.

But I end, saying to Messer Marco’s prayer, Amen.

PALERMO, 31st December, 1874.

1 It would be ingratitude if this Preface contained no acknowledgment of the medals awarded to the writer, mainly for this work, by the Royal Geographical Society, and by the Geographical Society of Italy, the former under the Presidence of Sir Henry Rawlinson, the latter under that of the Commendatore C. Negri. Strongly as I feel the too generous appreciation of these labours implied in such awards, I confess to have been yet more deeply touched and gratified by practical evidence of the approval of the two distinguished Travellers mentioned above; as shown by Baron von Richthofen in his spontaneous proposal to publish a German version of the book under his own immediate supervision (a project in abeyance, owing to circumstances beyond his or my control); by Mr. Ney Elias in the fact of his having carried these ponderous volumes with him on his solitary journey across the Mongolian wilds!

2 I am grateful to Mr. de Khanikoff for his especial recognition of these in a kindly review of the first edition in the Academy.

3 Especially from Lieutenant Garnier’s book, mentioned further on; the only existing source of illustration for many chapters of Polo.

4 [Merged into the notes of the present edition. — H. C.]

5 See page xxix.

6 Writing in Italy, perhaps I ought to write, according to too prevalent modern Italian custom, Polo Marco. I have already seen, and in the work of a writer of reputation, the Alexandrian geographer styled Tolomeo Claudio! and if this preposterous fashion should continue to spread, we shall in time have Tasso Torquato, Jonson Ben, Africa explored by Park Mungo, Asia conquered by Lane Tamer, Copperfield David by Dickens Charles, Homer Englished by Pope Alexander, and the Roman history done into French from the original of Live Tite!

7 Introduction p. 24, and passim in the notes.

8 Ibid., p. 112.

9 See Introduction, pp. 51, 57.

10 See Title of present volumes.

11 Which quite agrees with the story of the document quoted at p. 77 of Introduction.

12 Vol. i. p. 64, and p. 67.

13 I.e. 1306; see Introduction, pp. 68–69.

14 The form which Marco gives to this word was probably a reminiscence of the Oriental corruption failsúf. It recalls to my mind a Hindu who was very fond of the word, and especially of applying it to certain of his fellow-servants. But as he used it, bara failsúf — “great philosopher”— meant exactly the same as the modern slang “Artful Dodger”!

15 See for the explanation of Karma, “the power that controls the universe,” in the doctrine of atheistic Buddhism, Hardy’s Eastern Monachism, p. 5.

16 Vol. ii. p. 316 (see also i. 348).

17 Vol. ii. pp. 318–319.

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