Digitized from Sir Henry Yule, Cathay and the way thither: being a collection of medieval notices of China VOL. II (London: Printed for the Hakluyt society, 1913-16), pp. 209-269. Yule's page numbers are included in square brackets for reference.
THE author begins by announcing his intention of dividing his work into Three Books, viz. I. Thearchos, or the History of the World from the Creation to the Building of Babel; H. Monarchos, or the History of Kings, from Nimrod down to the Franks and Germans, and so to the Kingdom of Bohemia; HI. Icrarchos, or the Ecclesiastical History, from Melchizedek to Moses and Aaron, to the Foundation of Christianity, and so to the Roman Pontiffs and the Bishops of Bohemia in order.
After speaking of the Creation the author comes to treat of Paradise,"Eastward in the place called Eden, beyond India," and this launches him at once on his reminiscences as follows:
And now to insert some brief passages of what I have seen myself. I, Friar John of Florence, of the order of Minors, and now unworthy Bishop of Bisignano, was sent with certain others, in the year of our Lord one thousand three hundred and thirty [eight], by the holy Pope Benedict the Eleventh, to carry letters and presents from the [p. 210] apostolic see to the Kaan or chief Emperor of all the Tartars, a sovereign who holds the sway of nearly half the eastern world, and whose power and wealth, with the multitude of cities and provinces and languages under him, and the countless number, as I may say, of the nations over which he rules, pass all telling.
We set out from Avignon in the month of December, came to Naples in the beginning of Lent, and stopped there till Easter (which fell at the end of March), waiting for a ship of Genoa, which was coming with the Tartar envoys whom the Kaan had sent from his great city of Cambalec to the Pope, to request the latter to despatch an embassy to his court, whereby communication might be established, and a treaty of alliance struck between him and the Christians; for he greatly loves and honours ow faith. Moreover the chief princes of his whole empire more than thirty thousand in number, who are called Alans, and govern the whole Orient, are Christians either in fact or in name, calling themselves the Pope's slaves, and ready to die for the Franks. For so they term us, not indeed from France, but from Frank-land. Their first apostle was Friar John, called De Monte Corvino, who seventy-two years previously, after having been soldier, judge, and doctor in the service of the Emperor Frederic, had become a Minor Friar, and a most wise and learned one. [p. 211]
Howbeit on the first of May we arrived by sea at Constantinople, and stopped at Pera till the feast of St. John Baptist. We had no idle time of it however, for we were engaged in a most weighty controversy with the Patriarch of the Greeks and their whole Council in the palace of St. Sophia. Arid there God wrought in us a new miracle, giving us a mouth and wisdom which they were not able to resist; for they were constrained to confess that they must needs be schismatics, and had no plea to urge against their own condemnation except the intolerable arrogance of the Roman prelates.
Thence we sailed across the Black Sea, and in eight days arrived at Caffa, where there are Christians of many sects. From that place we went on to the first Emperor of the Tartars, Usbec, and laid before him the letters which we bore, with certain pieces of cloth, a great war-horse, [p.212] some strong liquor, and the Pope's presents. And after the winter was over, having been well fed, well clothed, loaded with handsome present, and supplied by the King with horses and travelling expenses, we proceeded to ARMALEC [the capital] of the Middle Empire. There we built a church, bought a piece of ground, dug wells, sung masses and baptized several; preaching freely and openly, notwithstanding the fact that only the year before the Bishop and six other Minor Friars had there undergone for Christ's sake a glorious martyrdom, illustrated by brilliant miracles. The names of these martyrs were Friar Richard the Bishop, a Burgundian by nation, Friar Francis of Alessandria, Friar Paschal of Spain (this one was a prophet and saw the heavens open, and foretold the martyrdom which should befall him and his brethren, and the overthrow of the Tartars of Saray by a flood, and the destruction of Armalec in vengeance for their martyrdom, and that the Emperor would be slain on the third day after their martyrdom, and many other glorious things); Friar Laurence of Ancona, Friar Peter, an Indian friar who acted as their interpreter, and Gillott [Gilottus], a merchant. [p. 213]
Towards the end of the third year after our departure from the Papal Court, quitting Armalec we came to the CYOLLOS KAGON, i.e. to the Sand Hills thrown up by the wind. Before the days of the Tartars nobody believed that the earth was habitable beyond these, nor indeed was it believed that there was any country at all beyond. But the Tartars by God's permission, and with wonderful exertion, did cross them, and found themselves in what the philosophers call the torrid and impassable zone. Pass it however the Tartars did; and so did I, and that twice. 'Tis of this that David speaketh in the Psalms,"Posuit desertum,"&c. After having passed it we came to CAMBALEC, the chief seat of the Empire of the East. Of its incredible magnitude, population, and military array, we will say nothing. But the Grand Kaam, when he beheld the great horses, and the Pope's presents, with [p. 214] his letter, and King Robert's too, with their golden seals, and when he saw us also, rejoiced greatly, being delighted, yea exceedingly delighted with everything, and treated us with the greatest honour. And when I entered the Kaam's presence it was in full festival vestments, with a very fine cross carried before me, and candles and incense, whilst Credo in Unurn Deum was chaunted, in that glorious palace where he dwells. And when the chaunt was ended I be-stowed a full benediction, which he received with all humility.
And so we were dismissed to one of the Imperial apartments which had been most elegantly fitted up for us; and two princes were appointed to attend to all our wants. And this they did in the most liberal manner, not merely as regards meat and drink, but even down to such things as paper for lanterns, whilst all necessary servants also were detached from the Court to wait upon us. And so they tended us for nearly four years, never failing to treat us [p. 215] with unbounded respect. And I should add that they kept us and all our establishment clothed in costly raiment.
And considering that we were thirty-two persons, what the Kaam expended for everything on our account must have amounted, as well as I can calculate, to more than four thousand marks. And we had many and glorious disputations with the Jews and other sectaries; and we made also a great harvest of souls in that empire.
The Minor Friars in Cambalec have a cathedral church immediately adjoining the palace, with a proper residence for the Archbishop, and other churches in the city besides, and they have bells too, and all the clergy have their subsistence from the Emperor's table in the most honourable manner.
And when the Emperor saw that nothing would induce me to abide there, he gave me leave to return to the Pope, carrying presents from him, with an allowance for three years' expenses, and with a request that either I or some one else should be sent speedily back with the rank of Cardinal, and with full powers, to be bishop there; for the office of Bishop is highly venerated by all the Orientals, whether they be Christians or no. He should also be of the Minorite Order, because these are the only priests that they are acquainted with; and they think that the Pope is always of that Order because Pope Girolamo was so who sent them that legate whom the Tartars and Alans venerate as [p. 216] a saint, viz., Friar John of Monte Corvino of the Order of Minorites, of whom we have already spoken. We abode in Cambalec about three years, and then we took our way through MANZI with a magnificent provision for our expenses from the Emperor, besides about two hundred horses; and on our way we beheld the glory of this world in such a multitude of cities, towns, and villages, and in other ways displayed, that no tongue can give it fit expression.
And sailing on the feast of St. Stephen, we navigated the Indian Sea until Palm Sunday, and then arrived-at a very noble city of India called COLUMBUM, where the [p. 217] whole world's pepper is produced. Now this pepper grows on a kind of vines, which are planted just like in our vine-yards. These vines produce clusters which are at first like those of the wild vine, of a green colour, and afterwards are almost like bunches of our grapes, and they have a red wine in them which I have squeezed out on my plate as a condiment. When they have ripened, they are left to dry upon the tree, and when shrivelled by the excessive heat the dry clusters are knocked off with a stick and caught upon linen cloths, and so the harvest is gathered.
These are things that I have seen with mine eyes and handled with my hands during the fourteen months that I stayed there. And there is no roasting of the pepper, as authors have falsely asserted, nor does it grow in forests, but in regular gardens; nor are the Saracens the proprietors but the Christians of St. Thomas. And these latter are the masters of the public steel-yard, from which I derived, as a perquisite of my office as Pope's legate, every month a hundred gold fan, and a thousand when I left.
There is a church of St. George there, of the Latin communion, at which I dwelt. And I adorned it with fine paintings, and taught there the holy Law. And after I had been there some time I went beyond the glory of Alexander the Great, when he set up his column (in India). For I erected a stone as my landmark and memorial, in the corner of the world over against Paradise, and anointed it with oil. In sooth it was a marble pillar with a stone cross upon it, intended to last till the world's end. And it had the Pope's arms and my own engraved upon it, with inscriptions both in Indian and Latin characters. I consecrated and blessed it in the presence of an infinite multitl4de of people, and I was carried on the shoulders of the chiefs in a litter or palankin like Solomon's. [p. 219]
So after a year and four months I took leave of the brethren, and after accomplishing many glorious works [p. 220] I went to see the famous Queen of SABA. By her I was honourably treated, and after some harvest of souls (for there are a few Christians there) I proceeded by seato SEYLLAN, a glorious mountain opposite to Paradise. And from Seyllan to Paradise, according to what the natives say after the tradition of their fathers, is a distance of forty Italian miles; so that, 'tis said, the sound of the waters falling from the fountain of Paradise is heard there.
CHAPTER CONCERNING PARADISE.
Now Paradise is a place that (really) exists upon the earth surrounded by the Ocean Sea, in the regions of the Orient on the other side of Columbine India, and over against the mountain of Seyllan. 'Tis the loftiest spot on the face of the earth, reaching, as Johannes Scotus hath proven, to the sphere of the moon; a place remote from all strife, delectable in balminess and brightness of atmosphere, and in the midst whereof a fountain springeth from the ground, pouring forth its waters to water, according to the season, the Paradise and all the trees therein. And there grow all the trees that produce the best of fruits; wondrous fair are they to book upon, fragrant and delicious for the food of man. Now that fountain cometh down from the mount and falleth into a lake, which is called by the philosophers EUPHIRATTES. Here it passes under another water which is turbid, and issues forth on the [p. 221] other side, where it divides into four rivers which pass through Seyllan; and these be their names: [p. 222]
GYON is that which circleth the land of Ethiopia where are now the negroes, and which is called the Land of Prester John. It is indeed believed to be the Nile, which descends into Egypt by a breach made in the place which is called ABASTY. The Christians of St. Matthew the Apostle are there, and the Soldan pays them tribute
[p. 223]on account of the river, because they have it in their power to shut off the water, and then Egypt would perish. [p. 224]
The second river is called PHISON, and it goes through
India, circling all the land of Evilach, and is said to go
clown into CATHAY, where, by a change of name, it is called
CAROMORAN, i.e. Black Water, and there is found bdellium and
the onyx stone. I believe it to be the biggest river of fresh
water in the world, and I have crossed it myself. And it has on
its banks very great and noble cities, rich above all in gold.
And on that river excellent craftsmen have their dwelling,
occupying wooden houses, especially weavers of silk and gold
brocade, in such numbers (I can bear witness from having seen
them), as in my opinion do not exist in the whole of Italy. And
they have on the shores of the river an abundance of silk, more
indeed than all the rest of the world put together. And they go
about on their floating houses with their whole families just
as if they were on shore. This I have seen. On the other side
of Caffa the river is lost in the sands, but it breaks out
again and forms the sea which is called BACUC, beyond THANA.
The third river is called TYGRIS. It passes over against the
land of the Assyrians, and comes down near NYNEVE, that great
city of three days' journey, to which Jonas was sent
to preach; and his sepulchre is there. I have been there also,
and stopped a fortnight in the adjoining towns which were built
out of the ruins of the city. There are capital fruits there,
especially pomegranates of wonderful size and sweetness, with
all the other fruits that we have in Italy. And on the opposite
side [of the river] is a city built out of the ruins of Nyneve,
which is called MONSOL1.
Between that river and the fourth, there is a long tract of country bearing these names; viz., Mesopotamia, i.e. the land between the waters; Assyria, the land of Abraham [p. 226]
and Job, where also is the city of King Abagarus, to whom Christ sent a letter written with his own hand, once a most fair and Christian city, but now in the hands of the Saracens. There also I abode four days in no small fear.
We come lastly to the fourth river, by name EUPHRATES, which separates Syria, Assyria, and Mesopotamia from the Holy Land. When we crossed it we were in the Holy Land. In this region are some very great cities, especially ALEP, in which there are many Christians who dress after the Latin fashion, and speak a language very near the French; at any rate like French of Cyprus. Thence you come to Damascus, to Mount Lebanon, to Galilee, to Samaria, Nazareth, Jerusalem, and to the Sepulchre of our Lords Jesus Christ.
Then follows a chapter Concerning the Trees of Paradise, from which I extract a few lines.
[The trees] are there still in existence, as the
Pantheon says; and this is shown by the fruits and
leaves which are sometimes carried forth by those rivers, and
are known by their medicinal virtue and fragrant odours. Nor is
this in-credible; for in the adjoining provinces of India
likewise there are trees which produce fruit of a marvellous
kind every month. [p. 227]
From the chapter On the Transgression of our First
Parents by Temptation of the Serpent.
And they took the leaves of the fig-tree or plantain, and
made themselves girdles to hide their shame....Then God
pronounced sentence after the confession of their sin, first
against the serpent that he should go upon his belly creeping
on the earth (but I must say that I have seen many serpents,
and very big ones too, that went with half the body quite
erect, like women when they walk in the street, and very
graceful to look upon, but not to be sure keeping this up for
any length of time)....
And he made them coats of skins: so at least we commonly have it, pelliceas,"of fur," but we should do better to read filiceas,"of fibre"; because they were no doubt of a certain fibrous substance which grows like net-work between the shoots of the coco-palm; I wore one of these myself till I got to Florence, where I left it. And God forbade Adam to eat of the Tree of Life. See, said He to the Angels, that they take not of the Tree of Life, and so live for ever. And straightway the Angel took Adam by the arm and set him down beyond the lake on the Mountain Seyllan, where I stopped for four months. And by chance Adam planted his right foot upon a stone which is there still, and straightway by a divine miracle the form of the sole of his foot was imprinted on the marble, and there it is to this very day. And the size, I mean the length, thereof is two and a half of our palms, or about half a. Prague ell. And I was not the only one to measure it, for so did another pilgrim, a Saracen of Spain; for many [p. 228] go on pilgrimage to Adam. And the Angel put out Eve on another mountain, some four short days' journey distant. And as the histories of those nations relate (and indeed there is nothing in the relation that contradicts Holy Scripture), they abode apart from one another and mourning for forty days, after which the Angel brought Eve to Adam, who was waxing as it were desperate, and so comforted them both.
NARRATIVE CONCERNING THE MOUNTAIN SEYLLAN.
Now, as our subject requires it, and as I deem it both pleasant and for some folks profitable, I propose to insert here an account of Seyllan, provided it please his Imperial Majesty; and if it please him not he has but to score it out.
First, then, it must be told how, and in what fashion I got there, and after that I will speak of what is to be found there.
First, then, when we got our dismissal from the Kaam that
mighty Emperor, with splendid presentand allowances from him,
and as we proposed to travel by India, because the other
overland road was shut up by war and there was no possibility
of getting a passage that way, it was the Kaam's
order that we should proceed through Manzi, which was formerly
known as India Maxima.
Now Manzi is a country which has countless cities and nations included in it, past all belief to one who has not seen them, besides great plenty of everything, including fruits quite unknown in o.tr Latin countries. Indeed it has 30,000 great cities, besides towns and boroughs quite [p. 229] beyond count. And among the rest is that most famous city of CAM PSAY, the finest, the biggest, the richest, the most populous, and altogether the most marvellous city, the city of the greatest wealth and luxury, of the most splendid buildings (especially idol temples, in some of which there are moo and 2000 monks dwelling together) that exists now upon the face of the earth, or mayhap that ever did exist! When authors tell of its ten thousand noble bridges of stone, adorned with sculptures and statues of armed princes, it passes the belief of one who has not been there, and yet peradventure these authors tell no lie.
There is ZAYTUN also, a wondrous fine seaport and a city of incredible size, where our Minor Friars have, three very fine churches, passing rich and elegant; and they have a bath also and a fondaco which serves as a depot for all the merchants. They have also some fine bells of [p. 230] the best quality, two of which were made to my order, and set up with all due form in the very middle of the Saracen community. One of these we ordered to be called Johannina, and the other Antonina.
We quitted Zaytun on St. Stephen's day, and on the Wednesday of Holy Week we arrived at Columbum. Wishing then to visit the Shrine of St. Thomas the Apostle, and to sail thence to the Holy Land, we embarked on board certain junks, from Lower India which is called Minubar. We encountered so many storms, commencing from St. George's Eve, and were so dashed about by them, that sixty times and more we were all but swamped in the depths of the sea, and it was only by [p. 231] divine miracle that we escaped. And such wondrous things we beheld! The sea as if in flames, and fire‑spitting dragons flying by, and as they passed they slew persons on board the other junks, whilst ours remained untouched, by God's grace, and by virtue of the body of Christ which I carried with me,. and through the merits of the glorious Virgin and St. Clare. And having brought all the Christians to penitential mourning, even whilst the gale still blew we made sail, committing ourselves to the Divine guidance, and caring only for the safety of souls. Thus led by the Divine mercy, on the morrow of the Invention of the Holy Cross we found ourselves brought safely into port in a harbour of Seyllan, called PERVILIS, over against Paradise. Here a certain tyrant, by name Coya Jaan, a eunuch, had the mastery in opposition to the lawful king. He was an accursed Saracen, who by means of his great treasures had gained possession of the greater part of the kingdom [p. 232]
At first he put on a pretence of. treating us honourably, but by and by, in the politest manner and under the name of a loan, he took front us 60,000 marks, in gold, silver, silk, cloth of gold, precious stones, pearls, carnphor, musk, myrrh, and aromatic spices, gifts from the Great Kaam and other princes to us, or presents sent from them to the Pope. And so we were detained by this man, with all politeness as I said, for four months.
On that very high mountain [of which we have spoken], perhaps after Paradise the highest mountain on the face of the earth, some indeed think that Paradise itself exists. But this is a mistake, for the name shows the contrary. For it is called by the natives Zindan Baba; baba meaning"father" (and mama"mother") in every language in the world; whilst Zindan is the same as"Hell," so that Zindan Baba is as much as to say "the hell of our father," implying that our first father when placed there on his expulsion from Paradise was as it were in hell.
That exceeding high mountain hath a pinnacle of surpassing height, which, on account of the clouds, can rarely be seen. But God, pitying our tears, lighted it up one morning just before the sun rose, so that we beheld it glowing with the brightest flame. In the way down from this same mountain there is a fine level spot, still at a great height, and there you find in order, first the mark of Adam's foot; secondly, a certain statue of a sitting figure [p. 233] with the left hand resting on the knee, and the right hand raised and extended towards the west; lastly, there is the house (of Adam) which he made with his own hands. It is of an oblong quadrangular shape like a sepulchre, with a door in the middle, and is formed of great tabular slabs of marble, not cemented, but merely laid one upon another.
It is said by the natives, especially by their monks who stay at the foot of the mountain, men of very holy life [p. 234] though without the faith, that the deluge never mounted to that point, and thus the house has never been disturbed. Herein they put their dreams in opposition to Holy Scripture and the traditions of the saints; but indeed they have some plausible arguments to urge on their side. For they say that they are not descended either from Cain or from Seth, but from other sons of Adam, who [as they allege] begot other sons and daughters. But as this is contrary to Holy Scripture I will say no more about it.
I must remark, however, that these monks never eat flesh, because Adam and his successors till the flood did not do so. They go naked from the loins upwards, and unquestionably they are very well conducted. They have houses of palm-leaves, which you can break through with your fingers, and these are scattered up and down in the woods, and full of property, and yet they live without the slightest fear of thieves, unless perchance there come vagabonds from foreign parts.
On the same mountain, in the direction of Paradise, is a great fountain, the waters of which are clearly visible at a distance of good ten Italian miles. And though it breaks out there, they say that its water is derived from the Fountain of Paradise. And they allege this in proof: that there sometimes turn up from the bottom leaves of unknown species in great quantities, and also lign-aloes, [p. 235] and precious stones, such as the carbuncle and sapphire, and also certain fruits with healing virtues. They tell also that those gems are formed from Adam's tears, but this seems to be a mere figment. Many other matters I think it best to pass over at present.
CONCERNING ADAM'S GARDEN AND THE FRUITS
The garden of Adam in Seyllan contains in the first place plantain trees which the natives call figs. But the plantain has more the character of a garden plant than of a tree. It is indeed a tree in thickness, having a stem as thick as an oak, but so soft that a strong man can punch a hole in it with his finger, and from such a hole water will flow. The leaves of those plantain trees are most beautiful, immensely long and broad, and of a bright emerald green; in fact, they use them for tablecloths, but serving only for a single dinner. Also new-born children, after being washed and salted, are wrapped up with aloes and roses in these leaves, without any swathing, and so placed in the sand. The leaves are some ten ells in length, more or less, and I do not know to what to compare them (in form) unless it be to elecampane. The tree produces its fruit only from the crown; but on one stem it will bear a good three hundred. At first they are not good to eat, but after they have been kept a while in the house they ripen of themselves, and are then of an excellent odour, [p. 236] and still better taste; and they are about the length of the longest of one's fingers. And this is a thing that I have seen with mine own eyes, that slice it across where you will, you will find on both sides of the cut the figure of a man crucified, as if one had graven it with a needle point. And it was of these leaves that Adam and Eve made themselves girdles to cover their nakedness.
There are also many other trees and wonderful fruits there which we never see in these parts, such as the Nargil. Now the Nargil is the Indian Nut. Its tree has a most delicate bark, and very handsome leaves like those of the date-palm. Of these they make baskets and corn measures; they use the wood for joists and rafters in rqofing houses; of the husk or rind they make cordage; of the nutshell cups and goblets. They make also from the shell spoons which are antidotes to poison. Inside the shell there is a pulp of some two fingers thick, which is excellent eating, and tastes almost like almonds. It burns also, and both oil and sugar can be made from it. Inside of this there is a liquor which bubbles like new milk and turns to an excellent wine.
They have also another tree called Amburan', having [p. 237] a fruit of excellent fragrance and flavour, somewhat like a peach. There is again another wonderful tree called Chakebaruhe', as big as an oak. Its fruit is produced from the trunk and not from the branches, and is something marvellous to see, being as big as a great lamb, or a child of three years old. It has a hard rind like that of our pine-cones, so that you have to cut it open with an axe; inside it has a pulp of surpassing flavour, with the sweetness of honey and of the best Italian melon; and this also contains some five hundred chestnuts of like flavour, which are capital eating when roasted.
I do not remember to have seen any other fruit trees, such as pears, apples, or figs, or vines, unless it were some that bore leaves only and no grapes. There is an exception, however, at the fine church of St. Thomas the Apostle, at the place where he was Bishop. They have there a little [p. 238] vinery which I saw, and which supplies a small quantity of wine. It is related that when he first went thither he used to carry about with him a little wine for masses (as I did myself for the space of nearly two years); and when that was done he went to Paradise, into which he found his way by the help of Angels, and carried away with him some of the grapes, the stones of which he sowed. From these grew the vines which I saw at that place, and from them he made the wine of which he stood in need. Elsewhere there are vines indeed, but they bear no grapes, as I know by experience. The same is the case with melons and cucumbers, and indeed I saw no eatable potherbs there, unless it be an exception that I saw whole thickets of basil.
These then are the trees in Adam's garden. But of what tree was the fruit that he ate I cannot tell; yet might I guess it to be of the citron, for it is written,
"Ipse lignum tunc notavit,
Dampna ligni ut solveret."
Now there were used, it must be observed, in making the
cross, palm wood, olive wood, cypress wood, and citron wood,
and the last is the only one of the four that can be [p. 239]
alleged to bear a fruit which is good to eat and pleasant to
the eyes. And these really appear to be the woods of the cross
in that which belongs to our Lord the Emperor Charles; whatever
people may say about the plantain tree (which is called also a
fig tree) and its exhibiting the image of the crucifix; at the
same time I don't mean to commit myself to any pre-judgment of
the matter. But as regards the fruit before mentioned, there is
a certain Hebrew gloss on that proverb of
Ezekiel's"Patrescomederunt uvam acer-bam, et dentes
filiorurn obstupuerunt," which needs notice. Where our
version has Patres the original Hebrew has Adam.
Now this word is written sometimes one way and sometimes another. For Adam is written one way when it signifies parents, or man and woman, as in Genesis when 'tis said"Vocavit nomen eorum Adam" in the plural; and it is written with other letters when it signifies a man only. Just as we say on the one hand hic et haec homo, and on the other hand hic vir (though I don't mean to say that we use diacritical marks and inherent vowels like the Hebrews), so also Sem is written sometimes with a Zade, and some-times with a Samech; and Abram sometimes with an Aleph and sometimes with a He, the signification varying accordingly. So then"Adam comederunt uvam acerbam" [has been understood of our first father]. But this interpretation is not approved by our divines, for there was no vinewood in the cross. The same remark may be made regarding the fig tree for which the sons of Adam in Seyllan stand up, and also regarding the plantain (though it is highly probable that our parents made their aprons of its leaves, seeing that they be so big). As for the olive and the date, though they are" good for food" nobody ever suggested their being the forbidden fruit. Yet there was palm wood in the cross, as is clearly seen in the reliques belonging to the Emperor; at least that is my opinion. Yet that can hardly be if the story be true that Godfrey [p. 240] of Viterbo tells in his Pantheon. For he says that when Adam was waxing old and infirm, he sent his son Seth to Paradise to seek the promised oil of mercy. The angel warden of Paradise said:"The time is not yet; but take thou these branches of olive, citron, and cypress, and plant them; and when oil shall be got from them thy father shall get up safe and sound." So Seth returned, and found his father dead in Hebron. Wherefore he twisted together those three branches, and planted them above the body of Adam, and straightway they became one tree. And when that tree grew great it was transplanted, first to Mount Lebanon, and afterwards to Jerusalem. And at Jerusalem to this day exists a monastery of the Greeks on the spot where that tree was cut down. The hole whence it was cut is under the altar, and the monastery is called in Hebrew" The Mother of the Cross" from this circumstance. The tree was made known to Solomon by means of the Queen of Saba, and he caused it to be buried under the deep foundations of a tower. But by the earthquake that took place on the birth of Christ, the foundations of the tower were rent, and the tree discovered. It was from it that the pool called Probatica acquired its virtues.
CONCERNING THE CLOTHING OF OUR FIRST PARENTS
And the Lord made for Adam and his wife coats of skins or fur, and clothed them therewith. But if it be asked, whence the skins? the answer usually made is, either that they were expressly created (which savours not of wisdom!); or that an animal was slain for the purpose (and this is not satisfactory, seeing that 'tis believed the animals were at first created only in pairs, and there had [p. 241] been no time for the multiplication of the species). Now then I say, without however meaning to dogmatize, that for coats of fur we should read coats of fibre. For among the fronds of the Nargil, of which I have spoken above, there grows a sort of fibrous web forming an open network of coarse dry filaments. Now to this day among the people there and the Indians it is customary to make of those fibres wet weather mantles for those rustics whom they call cannalls, whose business it is to carry burdens, and also to carry men and women on their shoulders in palankins, such as are mentioned in Canticles," Ferculum fecit sibi Salomon de lignis Libani," whereby is meant a portable litter, such as I used to be carried in at Zaytun and in India. A garment such as I mean, of this cannall cloth (and not camel cloth), I wore till I got to Florence, and I left it in the sacristy of the Minor Friars there. No doubt the raiment of John Baptist was of this kind. For as regards camel's hair it is, next to silk, the softest stuff in the world, and never could have been meant. By the way (speaking of camels), I once found myself in company with an infinite multitude of camels and their foals in that immense desert by which you do down from Babylon of the Confusion towards Egypt by way of Damascus; and of Arabs also there was no end! Not that I mean to say there were any camels in Seyllan; but there were innumerable elephants. And these though they be most ferocious monsters seldom hurt a foreigner. I even rode upon one once, that belonged to the Queen of Saba! That beast really did seem to have the use of reason--if it were not contrary to the Faith to think so. [p. 242]
CONCERNING THE FOOD OF OUR FIRST PARENTS.
Our first parents, then, lived in Seyllan upon the fruits I have mentioned, and for drink had the milk of animals. They used no meat till after the deluge, nor to this day do those men use it who call themselves the children of Adam. Adam, you know, was set down upon the mountain of Seyllan, and began there to build him a house with slabs of marble, etc., as has been already related. At that place dwell certain men under religious vows, and who are of surpassing cleanliness in their habits; yea of such cleanliness that none of them will abide in a house where anyone may have spit; and to spit themselves (though in good sooth they rarely do such a thing) they will retire long way, as well as for other occasions.
They eat only once a day, and never oftener; they drink nothing but milk or water; they pray with great propriety of manner; they teach boys to form their letters, first by writing with the finger on sand, and afterwards with an iron style upon leaves of paper, or rather I should say upon leaves of a certain tree.
In their cloister they have certain trees that differ in
foliage from all others. These are encircled with crowns
of gold and jewels, and there are lights placed before
them, and these trees they worship'. And they pretend [p. 243]
to have received this right by tradition from Adam, saying that
they adore those trees because Adam looked for future salvation
to come from wood. And this agrees with that verse of
David's,"Dicite in gentibus, quia Dominus
regnabit in ligno," though for a true rendering it would be
better to say curabit a ligno.
These monks, moreover, never keep any food in their house till the morrow. They sleep on the bare ground; they walk barefoot, carrying a staff; and are contented with a frock like that of one of our Minor Friars (but without a hood), and with a mantle cast in folds over the shoulder ad modum Apostolorum. They go about in procession every morning begging rice for their day's dinner. The princes and others go forth to meet them with the greatest reverence, and bestow rice upon them in measure pro-portioned to their numbers; and this they partake of steeped in water, with coco-nut milk and plantains. These things I speak of as an eye-witness; and indeed [p. 244] they made me a festa as if I were one of their own order.
There follow Chapters Concerning the Multiplication of the Human Race, The Offerings of Cain and Abel, etc., etc., to the end of the first section of his book, which he terms Thearchos. These chapters do not contain anything to our purpose except a few slight notices here and there, which I shall now extract. Thus of Cain he says:
If we suppose that he built his city after the murder of Abel there is nothing in this opposed to Scripture, unless so far that it seems to be implied that he never did settle down, but was always a vagabond and a fugitive. This city of his is thought to have been where now is that called KOTA in Seyllan, a place where I have been. After he had begotten many sons there he fled towards Damascus, where he was shot by the arrow of Lamech his descendant in the seventh generation; and there, hard by Damascus, his sepulchre is shown to this day.
In the next passage also he seems to be speaking of Hebron from personal knowledge:
And the story /goes that Adam mourned the death of his son Abel for a hundred years, and desired not to beget any more sons, but dwelt in a certain cave apart from Eve, until by command of an angel he rejoined her, and begat [p. 245] Seth. Then he separated himself from the generation of evil doers, and directed his course towards Damascus, and at last he ended his days in EBRON, and there he was buried, some twenty miles from Jerusalem. And the city was called Arba, i.e. of the four, because there were buried there Adam the chief, then Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, in the double cave that is in Ebron. And there the Patriarchs and other holy Fathers were afterwards buried, and Joseph also when he was brought up out of Egypt.
To Seth, he says,
Succeeded his son Enoch, who began to call upon the name of the Lord. This is believed to mean that he first instituted the practice of addressing God in audible prayers, and that he founded a religious discipline and peculiar rule of life, such as is followed to this day (they say) by the Bragmans, and by the monks of Seyllan, though these have turned aside to idolatry and to the worship of a tree, as we have related....
...And the sons of Adam in Seyllan adduce many proofs that the flood reached not to them. And this is one of the chief, that in the eastern part of the country there are a number of roaming vagabond people whom I have seen myself, and who call themselves the sons of Cain. Their faces are huge, hideous, and frightful enough to terrify anybody. They never can stay more than two days in one place, and if they did they would stink so that nobody could endure them. They seldom show themselves, but yet they are given to trade. Their wives and children, as frightful goblins as themselves, they carry about upon donkeys. Yet St. Augustine and the mass of theologians [p. 246] deem it absurd to suppose that any should have escaped the Deluge unless in the ark....
...And the ark grounded in the seventh month on a mountain of Armenia, which is near the Iron Gates in the Empire of Uzbek, and is called Ararat in the Lesser Armenia
Next we come to the Second Age, and the beginning
of the Second Book which is called
From the first chapter, which treats Of the Distribution of the Earth among the Sons of Noah, I extract some passages:
Noah therefore under the command of God delivered instructions to his sons about maintaining divine service in the worship of the One God by sacrifices, about the multiplication of offspring, and the division of the earth, that they might replenish it, and live in peace after his death. And he desiring a quiet life for his remaining days, reserved for himself the Isle of Cethym [Chittim] now called Cyprus. Shem the firstborn, as king and priest after his father, obtained half of the world, i.e., all Asia the Great, ex-tending from the White Sea beyond Hungary, where now are the Wallachians, in a straight line over all the empire [p. 247] of Uzbek, Katay, the Indies, and Ethiopia to the world's end.
The other half was divided between the other two brothers. Cham had Africa (including the Holy Land) by Carthage and Tunis to the world's end. Japhet the younger had Europe where we are now, that is to say, all on this side from Hungary, and all on this side from Rome, including Germany, France, Bohemia, Poland and England, and so to the world's end.
The next chapter is Concerning Worship after the Flood, a large portion of which is worthy of translation: [p. 248]
Shem was anxious to maintain the worship of the true God,
and his history we shall now follow. In the second year after
the flood he begat Arfaxat, who in turn begat Elam, from whom
the noble race of the Alans in the East is said to have sprung.
They form at this day the greatest and noblest nation in the
world, the fairest and bravest of men. 'Tis by their
aid that the Tartars have won the empire of the east, and
without them they have never gained a single important victory.
For Chinghiz Caam, the first king of the Tartars, had
seventy-two of their princes serving under him when he went
forth under God's providence to scourge the
world....Arfaxat the son of Shem, at the age of thirty-five
begat Sela or Sale, by whom India was peopled and divided into
three kingdoms. The first of these is called MANZI, the
greatest and noblest province in the world, having no paragon
in beauty, pleasantness, and extent. In it is that noble city
of CAMPSAV, besides ZAYTUN, CYNKALAN, JANCI, and [p. 249] many
other cities. Manzi was formerly called CYN, and it has to this
day the noble port and city called Cynkalan, i.e." Great India"
[Great China], for kalan signifies great. And in
the Second India, which is called MYNIBAR there is CYNKALI,
which signifieth" Little India" [Little China], for
kali is Little.
The second kingdom of India is called Mynibar, and 'tis of that country that St. Augustine speaketh in treating of the Canine Philosophers, who had this name of Canine because they used to teach people to do as dogs do, e.g. that a man should never be ashamed of anything that was natural to him. They did not, however, succeed in persuading these people even that sons might without shame bathe before their fathers, or let their nakedness be seen by them.
It is in this country that lies the city of Columbum, where the pepper grows, of which we have already spoken.
The third province of India is called Maabar, and the church of St. Thomas which he built with his own hands is there, besides another which he built by the agency of [p. 250] workmen. These he paid with certain very great stones which I have seen there, and with a log cut down on Adam's Mount in Seyllan, which he caused to be sawn up, and from its sawdust other trees were sown. Now that log, huge as it was, was cut down by two slaves of his and drawn to the seaside by the saint's own girdle. When the log reached the sea he said to it," Go now and tarry for us in the haven of the city of Mirapolis." It arrived there accordingly, whereupon the king of that place with his whole army endeavoured to draw it ashore, but ten thousand men were not able to make it stir. Then St. Thomas the Apostle himself came on the ground, riding on an ass, wearing a shirt, a stole, and a mantle of peacock's feathers, and attended by those two slaves and by two great lions, just as he is painted, and called out"Touch not the log, for it is mine!""How," quoth the king,"dost thou make it out to be thine?" So the Apostle loosing the cord wherewith he was girt, ordered his slaves to tie it to the log and draw it ashore. And this being accomplished with the greatest ease, the king was converted, and bestowed upon the saint as much land as he could ride round upon his ass. So during the day-time he used to go on building his churches in the city, but at night he retired to a distance of three Italian miles, where there were numberless peacocks...and thus being shot in the side with an arrow such as is called friccia, (so that [p. 251] his wound was like that in the side of Christ into which he had thrust his hand), he lay there before his oratory from the hour of complines, continuing throughout the night to preach, whilst all his blessed blood was welling from his side; and in the morning he gave up his soul to God. The priests gathered up the earth with which his blood had mingled, and buried it with him. By means of this I experienced a distinct miracle twice over in my own person, which I shall relate elsewhere.
Standing miracles are, however, to be seen there, in respect both of the opening of the sea, and of the peacocks. Moreover whatever quantity of that earth be removed from the grave one day, just as much is replaced spontaneously against the next. And when this earth is taken in a potion it cures diseases, and in this manner open miracles are wrought both among Christians and among Tartars and Pagans. [p. 252]
That king also gave St. Thomas a perpetual grant of the public steelyard for pepper and all aromatic spices, [p. 253] and no one dares take this privilege from the Christians [p. 254] but at the peril of death. I spent four days there; there is an excellent pearl fishery at the place.
Now to say something of the monstrous creatures which histories or romances have limned or lied about, and have represented to exist in India. Such be those that St. Augustine speaks of in the Sixteenth Book De Civitate Dei; as, for example, that there be some folks who have but one eye in the forehead; some who have their feet turned. the wrong way; some alleged to partake of the nature of both sexes, and to have the right breast like a man's, the left breast like a woman's; others who have neither head nor mouth, but only a hole in the breast. Then there are some who are said to subsist only by the breath of their nostrils; others a cubit in height who war with cranes. Of some 'tis told that they live not beyond eight years, but conceive and bear five times. Some have no joints; others lie ever on their backs holding up the sole of the only foot they have to shade them; others again have dog's heads. And then poets have invented ypotamuses and plenty of other monsters.
Concerning all these St. Augustine concludeth either that they exist not at all, or if they do exist they have the use of reason, or are capable of it. All men come from Adam, and even if they be natural monstrosities still they are from Adam. Such monstrosities are indeed born among ourselves from time to time, and a few also in those regions; but then they amount to a good many if you take what are born from the whole family of man. Such [p. 255] is the case (as he exemplifies the matter) with the different sorts of hunchbacks, with men who have six fingers, and many others of like character. So the most noble Emperor Charles IV brought from Tuscany a girl whose face, as well as her whole body, was covered with hair, so that she looked like the daughter of a fox! Yet is there no such race of hairy folk in Tuscany: nor was her own mother even, nor her mother's other children so, but like the rest of us. Such too was that monster whom we saw in Tuscany, in the district of Florence, in our own time and which a pretty woman gave birth to. It had two heads perfectly formed, four arms, two busts, perfect as far as the navel, but there running into one. There was one imperfect leg sticking out of the side, and only two legs below, yet it was baptized as two persons. It survived for a week. I saw also at Bologna, when I was lecturing there a ewe which bore a monstrous lamb of like character, with two heads and seven feet. Yet we do not suppose that such creatures exist as a species, but regard them as [p. 256] natural monstrosities. So Both God choose to show forth His power among men, that we may render thanks to Him that He bath not created us with such deformities, and that we may fear Him!
But I, who have travelled in all the regions of the Indians, and have always been most inquisitive, with a mind indeed too often addicted more to curious inquiries than to virtuous acquirements, (for I wanted if possible to know everything)-I have taken more pains, I conceive, than another who is generally read or at least well known, in investigating the marvels of the world; I have travelled in all the chief countries of the earth, and in particular to places where merchants from all parts of the world do come together, such as the Island of Ormes, and yet I never could ascertain as a fact that such races of men really do exist, whilst the persons whom I met used to question me in turn where such were to he found. The truth is that no such people doexist as nations, though there may be an individual monster here and there. Nor is there any people at all such as has been invented, who have but one foot which they use to shade themselves withal. But as all the Indians commonly go naked, they are in the habit of carrying a thing like a little tent-roof on a cane handle, which they open out at will as a protection against sun or rain. This they call a chatyr; I brought one to Florence with me. And this it is which the poets have converted into a foot. [p. 257]
ANECDOTE CONCERNING A CERTAIN INDIAN WHO WAS BAPTISED.
Here I must relate how when I was staying at Columbum with those Christian chiefs who are called Modilial, and are the owners of the pepper, one morning there came to me in front of the church a man of majestic stature and snowy white beard, naked from the loins upwards with only a mantle thrown about him, and a knotted cord [crossing his shoulder] like the stole of a deacon. He prostrated himself in reverence at full length upon the sand, knocking his head three times against the ground. Then he raised himself, and seizing my naked feet wanted to kiss tlaiem; but when I forbade him he stood up. After a while he sat down on the ground and told us the whole story of his life through an interpreter. This interpreter [strange to say] was his own son, who having been taken by pirates and sold to a certain Genoese merchant, had been baptized, and as it so chanced was then with us, and recognized his father by what he related.
The old man had never eaten flesh, had never but once been in the way of begetting offspring, habitually fasted four months in the year, ate only a little rice boiled in water, with fruit and herbs, and that late in the evening, used to spend his nights in prayer,-and before he entered his place of prayer washed his whole body, and put on a dress of spotless linen reserved for this only. He then would go in and worship the devil in his image, with the most single-minded devotion. He was the priest of the whole of his island, which was situated in the remotest region of the Indies.
Now God seeing his purity enlightened him first with [p. 258] wisdom from within; and afterwards the demon was con-strained to address him through the idol's mouth, speaking thus:"Thou art not in the path of salvation! God therefore enjoineth thee to proceed to Columbum, a distance of two years voyage by sea, and there shalt thou find the messenger of God who shall teach thee the way of salvation!""Now, therefore," said he to me," here am I, come to thy feet and ready to obey thee in all things; and what is more, it was thy face that I saw in my dreams, as now I recognize." Then having prayed with tears, and strengthened him in his intent, we assigned his baptized son as his teacher and interpreter. And after three months instruction I baptized him by the name of Michael, and blessed him, and sent him away, whilst he promised to preach to others the faith that he had acquired.
This story serves to exemplify that God (as St. Peter said of Cornelius the centurion) is no respecter of persons, but whosoever keepeth the law that is written in the heart (For the light of Thy countenance hath shone upon us, O Lord!) is accepted of Him, and is taught the way of salvation.
But I did not fail to inquire whether this man, who had for two years been sailing about the unexplored seas and islands of the Indies, had seen or even heard anything of those monsters of which we have been speaking; but he knew nothing whatever about them. Nor could I learn more when I was with the Queen of Saba; though there the sun rises just the opposite of here, and at noon the shadow of a man passes from left to right, instead of from [p. 259] right to left, as it does here. The north pole there was six degrees below the horizon, and the south pole as much elevated above it, as has been pointed out to me by Master Lemon of Genoa, a very noble astronomer, besides many other wonderful things in regard to the stars.
Giants do exist, undoubtedly; and I have seen one so tall that my head did not reach above his girdle; he had a hideous and disgusting countenance. There are also wild men, naked and hairy, who have wives and children, but abide in the woods. They do not show themselves among men, and I was seldom able to catch sight of one; for they hide themselves in the forest when they perceive any one coming. Yet they do a great deal of work, sowing and reaping corn and other things; and -when traders go to them, as I have myself witnessed, they put out what they have to sell in the middle of the path, and run and hide. Then the purchasers go forward and deposit the price, and take what has been set down.
It is a fact also that monstrous serpents exist [in the
east], and very like that which our lord the Emperor Charles
hath in his park at Prague. There are also certain animals with
countenances almost like a man's; more particularly in the
possession of the Queen of Saba, [p. 260] and in the cloister
at Campsay in that most famous monastery where they keep so
many monstrous animals, which they believe to be the souls of
the departed. [Not that they really are so] for I ascertained
by irrefragable proof that they are irrational animals, except,
of course, in so far as the devil may make use of them as he
once did of the serpent's tongue. [Such delusions]
those unbelievers may deserve to bring upon themselves because
of their unbelief. But otherwise I must say that their rigid
attention to prayer and fasting and other religious
duties, if they but held the true faith, would far surpass any
strictness and self-denial that we practise. However [as I was
going to say] those animals at Campsay usually come to be fed
at a given signal, but I observed that they never would come
when a cross was present, though as soon as it was removed they
would come. Hence I conclude that these monsters are not men,
although they may seem to have some of the properties of men,
but are merely of the character of apes; (indeed if we had
never seen apes before we should be apt to look upon
them as men!); unless forsooth they be monsters such as
I have been speaking of before, which come of Adam's race
indeed, but are exceptional and unusual births.
Nor can we conceive (and so says St. Augustine like-wise)
that there be any antipodes, i.e. men having the soles
[p. 261] of their feet opposite to ours. Certainly not. For the
earth is founded upon the waters. And I have learned by sure
experience that if you suppose the ocean divided by two lines
forming a cross, two of the quadrants so formed are navigable,
and the two others not navigable at all. For God willed not
that men should be able to sail round the whole
I have, however, seen an hermaphrodite, but it was
not able to propagate others like itself. Nor indeed does a
mule propagate. Now let us go back to our
The next chapter is one Concerning the Multiplication of
the Human Race, and the Division of the Earth, and the Tower of
Babel. I extract the following:
And they came to the plain of Senaar in the Greater Asia,
near to the great River Euphrates. There indeed we find a vast
level of seemingly boundless extent, in which, as I have seen,
there is abundance of all kinds of fruits, and especially of
dates, but also olives and vines in great plenty; so also of
all field and garden produce, pumpkins, melons, and
Then of Babel and Nimrod:
So he began and taught them to bake bricks to serve instead of stone, and, as there are many wells of bitumen there, they had bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar. And this bitumen is a kind of pitch, very black and liquid, mixt with oil; and when it is used with bricks in building [p. 262] it solidifies and sets so hard that it is scarcely possible by any art to separate the joints, as I have myself seen and felt when I was on that Tower; and some of that hardened bitumen I carried away with me. The people of the country are continually demolishing the Tower, in order to get hold of the bricks. And the foundations of the city were laid upon the most extensive scale, so that every side of the square was, they say, eight Italian miles; and from what one sees this seems highly probable. They set the Tower at the extremity of the walls next the river, as if for a citadel, and as they built up the walls they filled the interior with earth, so that the whole was formed into a round and solid mass. In the morning when the sun is rising it casts an immensely long shadow across that wide plain. [p. 263]
CONCERNING THE DIVISION OF TONGUES.
Having related that history, and how the greatest part of the Tower was destroyed by lightning, he goes on:
And they attempted, it seems, to build similar towers elsewhere, but were not able. Insomuch that even when a certain soldan erected a great building upon the foundation of such a tower, it was struck down by lightning, and on his several times renewing the attempt it was always struck down. So he took his departure into Egypt, and there built the city of Babylon, and is still called the Soldan of Babylonl.
The second son of Nimrod was Belus, and had his residence in
Babel after him....Now Bagbel, as it is called in their
language, is different from Babylon. For the latter means
confusion, whilst bag with the letter g
means a garden or paradise. [Bagbel therefore
means the Garden] of Bel, and it is called also Bagdag.
He then relates how Belus originated idolatry, and finishes with this singular passage:
The Jews however, the Tartars, and the Saracens, consider us to be the worst of idolaters, and this opinion is not confined to Pagans only, but is held also by some of the Christians. For although those Christians show devotion to pictures, they hold in abomination images, carved faces, and alarmingly life-like sculptures such as there are in our churches; as for example on the sepulchre of St. Adalbert at Prague.
Then follow chapters Concerning Nynus, and
Concerning the Wife of Nynus.
Semiramis, the wife of Nynus, the glory of womankind, hearing that her husband was slain, and fearing to entrust the government to her son, who was yet a child, kept him closely concealed. Meanwhile she adopted a dress made after the Tartar fashion, with large folds in front to disguise her bust, long sleeves to hide her lady's hands, long skirts to cover her feet, breeches to maintain her disguise when she mounted on horseback, her head well covered up,. and so gave herself out for the son of Nynus, ruled in his name, and ordered that style of dress to be generally followed. She then ordered warlike armaments, and invaded India and conquered it....In India she clandestinely gave birth to a daughter, whom she made when grown up Queen of the finest island in the world, SABA by name. In that [p. 265] island women always, or for the most part, have held the government in preference to men. And in the palace there I have seen historical pictures representing women seated on the throne, with men on bended knees adoring before them. And so also I saw that actually in that country the women sat in the chariots or on the elephant-chairs, whilst the men drove the oxen or the elephants.
The only points worth noticing in his next chapter Concerning Abraham, are his derivation, often repeated, of Saracen from Sarah; and the remark regarding the Dead Sea, that it can be seen from the dormitory of the Minor Friars on Mount Zion.
The following chapter headed Concerning the Kingdomof the Argives, ends with a discussion whether tithes areobligatory on Christians, and this leads to an anecdote:
As long as the Church and its ministers are provided for in some other way, it may be doubted whether the law of tithe should be imposed; as it certainly was not by the Apostles or by the Fathers for many a day after their time. And a case occurred in my own experience at KAMUL, when many Tartars and people of other nations, on their first conversion, refused to be baptized unless we would [p. 266] swear that after their baptism we should exact no temporalities from them; nay, on the contrary, that we should provide for their poor out of our own means. This we did, and a multitude of both sexes in that city did then most gladly receive baptism. 'Tis a doubtful question, but with submission to the Church's better judgment I would use no compulsion.
After sundry chapters about the Foundation of Rome
and the like, we come at last to the Prologue or Preface
(!) viz., to the actual Bohemian history. 'Tis a
wonderful specimen of rigmarole, addressed to the emperor, in
which the author shows the reluctance of a man entering a
shower-bath in January to commit himself to the essential part
of his task. The history affords none of the reminiscences
which we seek for extract: a few notices of interest remain
however to be gathered from his third book, which he calls
Thus, in speaking of circumcision, he says:
Talking on this matter with some of the more intelligent Jews who were friends of mine (at least as far as Jews can be friends with a Christian), they observed to me that the general law in question could never be fulfilled except with a very sharp razor, either of steel or of some nobler metal, such as bronze or gold. And they agreed with the dictum of Aristotle in his book of Problems, when he expressly asserts that cuts made with a knife of bronze or gold are healed more quickly than such as are made with a steel instrument. And this accords with the practice of the surgeons of Cathay, as I have seen.
From the chapter Concerning Jehoiada [Yoyada] the
At this time God pitying his people caused Elias to appear, who had been kept by God, it is not known where. That may be true which the Hebrews allege (as Jerome [p. 267] mentions in his comment on I Chronicles, xxi), viz., that he is the same as Phineas the son of Eleazar. But it is asserted both by the Hebrews and the Sab Bans, i.e., the people of the kingdom of the Queen of Saba, that he had his place of abode in a very lofty mountain of that land which is called Mount Gybeit, meaning the Blessed Mountain. In this mountain also they say that the Magi were praying on the night of Christ's nativity when they saw the Star. It is in a manner inaccessible, for from the middle of the mountain upwards the air is said to be so thin and pure that none, or at least very few, have been able to ascend it, and that only by keeping a sponge filled with water over the mouth. They say however that Elias by the will of God remained hidden there until the period in question.
The people of Saba say also that he still sometimes shows himself there. And there is a spring at the foot of that mountain where they say he used to drink, and I have drunk from that spring myself. But I was unable to ascend that Blessed Mountain, being weighed down with infirmities, the result of a very powerful poison that I had [p. 268] swallowed in Columbum, administered by those who wished to plunder my property. Although I was passing pieces of flesh from my intestines with a vast amount of blood, and suffered from an incurable dysentery of the third species for something like eleven months, a disease such as they say no one ever escaped from with life, yet God had compassion on me and spared me to relate what I had seen. For I did recover, by the aid of a certain female physician of that Queen's, who cured me simply by certain juices of herbs and an abstinent diet.
I frequently saw the Queen, and gave her my solemn benediction. I rode also upon her elephant, and was present at a magnificent banquet of hers. And whilst I was seated on a chair of state in presence of the whole city she honoured me with splendid presents. For she bestowed on me a golden girdle, such as she was accustomed to confer upon those who were created princes or chiefs. This was afterwards stolen from me by those brigands in Seyllan. She also bestowed raiment upon me, that is to say one hundred and- fifty whole pieces of very delicate and costly stuff. Of these I took nine for our lord the Pope, five for myself, gave three apiece to each of the chief among my companions, with two apiece to the subordinates, and all the rest I distributed in the Queen's own presence among her servants who stood around; that so they might perceive I was not greedy. And this thing was highly commended, and spoken of as very generous. I trust this little anecdote will not displease [His Majesty].
This and the following chapters contain a few incidental allusions to his homeward journey through the Holy Land. Thus he speaks of the entire destruction of the Temple and of the existence of a Mosque of the Saracens upon its site; [p. 269] he gives a slight description of Bethlehem, with the Fountain of David, and the Cave of the Nativity, and alludes to having visited the Wilderness of the Temptation.
In one passage he quotes as the favourable testimony of an enemy, how Machomet the accursed, in his Alcoran, in the third Zora, speaketh thus: O Mary, God hath purified thee and made thee holy above all women! etc.
The last extract that I shall make is from the same chapter.
Also all the philosophers and astrologers of Babylon and Egypt and Chaldea calculated that in the conjunction of Mercury with Saturn a girl should be born, who as a virgin, without knowledge of men, should bear a son in the land of Israel. And the image of this Virgin is kept in great state in a temple in Kampsay, and on the first appearance of the moon of the first month (that is of February, which is the first month among the Cathayers) that new year's feast is celebrated with great magnificence, and with illuminations kept up all the night.