« НазадПродовжити »
In the choice of a test for his translation, Mr. Marsden was led to give the preference to the Italian version of Ramusio, who, indeed, of all compilers, may be considered as the most accurate. In the English language we had few editions of the work, and none that could be read with satisfaction. The first, by John Frampton, was printed by Ralph Newberry in 1579. Of this very rare book, entitled · The most noble and famous Travels of Marcus Paulus, no less pleasant than profitable, &c.' Mr. Marsden observes, the style is remarkably rude, and the orthography of foreign names incorrect; but with regard to the matter of the text, it is by no means defective.' A second English version may be found in the · Pilgrimes’of Samuel Purchas, in which, as usual, this industrious collector has taken great liberties with the text, and committed great mistakes. Yet this version, as Mr. Marsden observes, has served as the basis of that given by Dr. Campbell, in his edition of the collection of voyages and travels, first published by Harris in 1704; for the use of which work, he tells us, the language was modernized and polished, without any reference to the Italian or the Latin for correction; so that all the faults, excepting those of style, were suffered to remain, whilst some mistakes imputable to the modernizer have been superadded: such, for instance, as that in which it is said of a certain causeway in China, that · on both sides are great fences,' instead of great fennes (fens), as it stands in Purchas; the word being pulude in the Italian. Under these circumstances it will be readily conceded to Mr. Marsden that' a new translation of Marco Polo's travels was wanting to the literature of our own country.'
The Notes' however are the most important part of the volume; and the plan of placing them at the end of each section, from which they are respectively referred to by figures in a consecutive series, beginning with No. ), and continued to No. 1495, is perhaps the most convenient for the reader that could have been adopted. Many are of considerable length, and each of them illustrates some point in the text. Of the 781 pages of which the volume consists, the notes occupy, we should suppose, not less than twothirds.
With such a variety of matter before us, it would be idle to attempt any thing like an abstract, however abbreviated; and unfair to select any particular note as a specimen of the whole. We shall therefore confine ourselves, principally, to a brief sketch of the life and travels of this illustrious Venetian. A great part of the matter is furnished by the traveller himself; the rest is chiefly taken from Ramusio. We had hoped that the Abbate Zurla, his countryman, might have been able to supply some additional information from the several manuscript collections of ancient records which are known to exist in the libraries of Italy, but this is not the case; and we fear, as we have already observed, that all the materials of any importance which relate to the Polo family are already before the public. The only advantage which this writer seems to have over Mr. Marsden is that of having apparently seen the manuscript chronicle of Fra Jacopo de Aqui, belonging to the Ambrosian library in Milan, which contains some account of the life of Marco Polo, but of which Mr. Marsden had no other knowledge than what is conveyed in a note of Amoretti, in his account of the voyage from the Atlantic to the Pacific by Cap. L. F. Maldonado, which note in fact contains all, or nearly all, that is mentioned by Zurla, personally relating to our traveller.
Andrea Polo de S. Felice, a patrician or nobleman of Venice, had three sons, Marco, Maffeo, and Nicolo, the last of whom was the father of our author. Being merchants of that wealthy and proud city, they embarked together on a trading voyage to Constantinople, where, as Mr. Marsden bas shewn, they must have arrived in 1254 or 1255. Having disposed of their Italian merchandize, and learned that the western Tartars, after devastating many provinces of Asia and of Europe, had settled in the vicinity of the Wolga, built cities, and assumed the forms of a regular government, they made purchases of ornamental jewels, crossed the Euxine to a port in the Crimea, and, travelling from thence by land and water, reached at length the camp of Barkah, 'the brother or the son of Batu, grandson of the renowned Gengiskhan, whose places of residence were Sarai and Bolghar, well known to the geographers of the middle ages. This prince is highly praised by oriental writers for his urbanity and liberal disposition, and the traditional fame of his virtues is said still to exist in that quarter. The confidence which the Italiaus wisely shewed, by placing their valuable commodities in his hands, was repaid with princely munificence. They remained with him a whole year, when hostilities breaking out between their protector and his cousin Hulagu, the chief of another horde of Tartars, Barkah sustained a defeat, which compelled the European travellers to seek their safety in a circuitous route round the head of the Caspian, and through the deserts of Transoxiana, till they arrived at the great city of Bokhara.
It happened, during their residence here, that a Tartar nobleman, sent by Hulagu to his brother Kublai, made that city his halting-place. From motives of curiosity, he desired an interview with the Italians, with whose conversation he was so much pleased, that he invited them to the Emperor's court, with an assurance of their meeting a favourable reception, and an ample recompense for the trouble of their journey. The difficulties of their return homewards, on the one hand, and the spirit of enterprize, on the other, M 3
with the fair prospect of wealth, prompted a ready compliance; and recommending themselves to the Divine protection, they set out towards the farthest corners of the east; and after a journey of twelve months reached the imperial residence of Kublai. They were received most graciously by the Grand Khan, who was very inquisitive into the state of affairs in the western world, and so well satisfied with their answers, that he determined to send them back in safety to Italy, accompanied by one of his own officers, as his ambassador to the see of Rome, professedly with the view of preyailing on the Pope to supply him with preachers of the gospel, who might communicate religious instruction to the unenlightened people of his dominions; though Mr. Marsden supposes that political considerations might have been the predominant object. Their Tartar companion soon fell sick, and was left behind. But the imperial tablet was a safe passport; and at the expiration of three years they reached Giazza, or Ayas, in Lesser Armenia, and arrived at Acre in 1269.
Here they learned that Pope Clement IV. had died in the preceding year, and the legate on the spot advised them to take no further steps in the business of their embassy until the election of a new pope. They therefore made the best of their way to Venice, where Nicolo Polo found that his wife, whom he had left with child, was dead, after producing a son to whom she had given the name of Marco, out of respect for the memory of her husband's eldest brother, and who was now in his fifteenth or sixteenth year.
Such,' says Mr. Marsden,' were the circumstances under which the author of the “ Travels” first makes his appearance.
Two years having passed away without any election, in consequence of the factions that prevailed in the sacred college, the Venetian travellers resolved to return secretly to the legate in Palestine, and young Marco accompanied them. By his Eminence they were furnished with letters to the Tartar emperor; but just as they were on the eve of departure, advice was received at Acre of the choice of the cardinals having fallen upon the legate himself, M. Tebaldo di Piacenza, who assumed the name of Gregory X. Our travellers were now supplied with letters-papal in a more ample and dignified form, and dispatched with the Apostolic benediction, together with two friars of the order of Preachers, who were to be the bearers of the new pope's presents. On reaching Armenia, which they found in the hands of a foreign enemy, the two friars were so terrified by the apparent danger, that they declined proceeding farther, and resigning to the Polos the care of the presents from the Pope, returned to Acre.
Mr. Marsden traces without difficulty the route of our travellers into the country of Badakshan, where they remained twelve months,
on account perhaps of Marco's illness, which, he teils us, was cured by removing his residence from the valley to the summit of an adjoining hill. They crossed the great ranges of mountains named in our maps. Belut-tag and Muz-tag, and acquired a knowledge of Kashmir and other countries on the borders of India. They ascended the elevated and wild regions of Pamer and Belor, on their way to the city of Kashghar, belonging to the Grand Khan, and the usual resort of the caravans. From this place they proceeded to Khoten, and traversed the dreary desert of Lop or Kobi, in a tedious journey of thirty days, passed Tangut and Sifan, and came to Kan-cheu on the western extremity of the Chinese province of Shen-si. Remaining here for some time, to give notice, as usual, to the Grand Khan of their arrival, he commanded that they should be immediately forwarded to his presence, at his expense, and with the attentions usually shewn to foreign ambassadors. · Their reception was highly gratifying; the emperor commended their zeal, accepted the presents of the pope, and received with all due reverence a vessel of the holy oil from the sepulchre of our Lord, that had been brought from Jerusalem at his own desire, and which he concluded, from the value set upon it by Christians, possessed extraordinary properties. Observing young Marco, and learning that he was the son of Nicolo, he honoured him with his particular notice, took him under his protection, and gave him an appointment in his household. It is impossible,' Mr. Marsden observes, 'for those who have read the account of Lord Macartney's embassy not to be struck with the resemblance between this scene and that which passed at Gehol in 1793, when Sir George Staunton presented his son, the present Sir George Thomas Staun ton, to the venerable Kien-Long.
Young Marco soon became distinguished for his talents, and respected by the court. He adopted the manners of the country, and acquired a competent knowledge of the four languages. most in use. He was employed by his sovereign in services of great importance in various parts of China, and even at the distance of six months' journey; he made notes of what he observed, for the information of the Grand Khan ; and it is to these notes, undoubtedly, that we are indebted for the substance of that account of his travels which, after his return, he was induced to give to the world. Distinguished as he unquestionably was by marks of the royal favour, one instance of it only is recorded by him, and that incidentally and with great modesty. A newly appointed Fuyuen, or governor, of Yang-cheu-foo, in the province of Kiany-nan, being unable to proceed to his charge, our young Venetian was sent to act as his deputy, and held the office during the usual M4
period of three years. That his father and uncle were also partakers of the monarch's regard is evident from his subsequent unwillingness to be deprived of their services : for when seventeen years had elapsed, and the natural desire of revisiting their native land began to operate upon their minds, all their endeavours to prevail on the emperor to consent to their return were ineffectual, and even drew from him some expressions of reproach. If the motive of their projected journey, he concluded with saying,' was the pursuit of gain, be was ready to gratify them to the utmost extent of their wishes; but with the subject of their request he could not comply.
It was their good fortune, however, to be relieved from this state of impatience and disappointment in a manner wholly unexpected. An embassy arrived at the court of Kublai from a Mogul-Tartar prince named Arghun, (the grand-nephew of the emperor,) who ruled in Persia. Having lost his wife, he sent to the head of his family to solicit from him another wife of his own lineage. The request was readily granted, and a princess was selected from amongst the emperor's grandchildren, who had attained her seventeenth year. The ambassadors set out with the betrothed queen on their return to Persia; but finding their route obstructed by the disturbed state of the country, after some months they returned to the capital of China. Whilst they were in this embarrassed situation, Marco Polo arrived from a voyage which he had made to some of the East India islands; a communication took place between the Persians and the Venetians, and both parties being anxious to effect their return to their own country, it was arranged between them that the former should represent to the Grand Khan the expediency of availing themselves of the experience of the Christians in maritime affạirs, to convey their precious charge by sea to the gulph of Persia. The emperor assented, and fourteen ships, each having four masts, were equipped and provisioned for two years. On their departure from his court, Kublai expressed his kind regard for the Polo family; and extorting from them a promise that, after having visited their friends, they would return to his service, he loaded them with presents of jewels and other valuable gifts. They took their route by Hainan, the coast of Cochinchina, Malacca, across the bay of Bengal, and by Ceylon, the celebrated peak on which is particularly noticed, as is also the pearl fishery. They sailed along the western coast of India, and finally, after eighteen months, reached Ormuiz in the Persian gulph; having lost six hundred of the inarines and two of the Persian noblemen on the passage. Whether this fleet ever found its way back is very doubtful; and its fate was probably less interesting at the court of Pekin, on account of the death