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Proceeding, in the first instance, to Egypt, he engaged in the service of Melek Madaron, sultan of that country, and fought in his wars against that restless but changeless people, the Bedowin Arabs. The monarch became greatly attached to him, and would have detained him at his court by most advantageous proposals, which his steady attachment to his religion determined him to reject.
“ And he wolde have maryed me fulle highely to a gret princes doughter, gif that I wolde have forsaken my law and my beleve. But, I thank God, I had no wille to don it, for nothing that he behighten me."
The personal narrative is very meagre: the course of the author's progress it is sometimes difficult to collect; and this method of making his work often little more than a progression of descriptions, in which it is still oftener difficult to discover whether the author speaks from actual observation, or from report, has mainly conduced to throw discredit upon such statements as were not immediately confirmed by other authorities. His curiosity being excited by the accounts of Eastern countries, which reached him through the commercial frequenters of the Mediterranean ports, he determined to pursue his journey from the Holy Land, the next scene of his travels, to the Chan of Tartary, whom he served, with four other knights, in his wars against the King of Manci, for the sake of the opportunities which that employment necessarily afforded them for more intimate acquaintance with the government and internal economy of that part of Asia.
“And yee schulle undirstonde, that my felawes and I, with our zomen, we serveden this Emperour, and weren his soudyoures, fifteen monethes, agenst the Kyng of Mancy, that held werre agenst him. And the cause was, for we hadden gret lust to see his noblesse and the estat of his court, and alle his governance, to wite gif it were suche as wee herde seye that it was."
Thus, as he remarks, (from observations on an astrolabe which he met with in his travels,) he had seen that half of the firmament which is between the two pole stars, or 180 degrees; and of the other half had “ seen 62 degrees on that o [one] part (the North], and 33 on that other part [the South]; that ben 95 degrees” out of the other 180. He pursued his journey no further, averring, however, “that gif he had companye and schipping for to go more beyonde, he trowed wel in certeyn that they scholde have seen all the roundness of the firmamente, alle aboute,” and declaring his belief in the spherical form of the
earth, in a most curious and interesting chapter, in which he adds,
“And right as the schip men taken here avys here, and governe hem be the lode sterre, right so don schip men beyonde the parties, be the sterre of the Southe, the whiche sterre apperethe not to us. And this sterre, that is toward the Northe, that we clepen the lode sterre, ne apperethe not to hem. For whiche cause, men may wel perceyve, that the londe and the see ben of rownde schapp and forme. For the partie of the firmament schewethe in o contree, that schewethe not in another contree. And men may well preven, be experience and sotyle compassement of wytt, that gif a man fond passages be schippes, that wolde go to serchen the world, men myghte go be schippe alle aboute the world, and aboven and benethen."
He seems, however, rather puzzled to give a satisfactory reason why those “benethen” should not fall away from the earth towards the firmament. On his return, in 1356, after an absence of thirty-four years, a period which the narrative by no means fills up at all satisfactorily, he compiled his book, "aftre informacion of men that knewen of things that [he] had not seen," and submitted it to the judgment of the Pope, who “remytted” it “ to be examyned and preved be the avys of his conseille," “ be the whiche,” he adds, “my boke was preved for trewe ; in so moche, that thei schewed me a boke, that my boke was examyned by” (probably the journals of some of the missionaries,) that comprehended fulle moche more, be an hundred parte, be the which the Mappa Mundi was made after”
“ Wherefore I preye to alle the rederes and hereres of this boke, gif it plese hem, that thei wolde preyen to God for me; and I schalle preye for hem. And all tho that seyn for me a pater noster, with an Ave Maria, that God forgeve me my synnes, I make hem parteneres and graunte hem parte of alle the gode pilgrymages and of alle the gode dedes, that I hav don, gif ony be to his plesance: and noghte only of tho, but of alle that evere I schalle do unto my lyfes end."
. If the period of his absence had been usefully and honourably employed by him for the credit of his country, he had, in return, the pride and pleasure of finding that country, which he had left distracted by intestine cummotions, become united and powerful under the administration of Edward III.; and the same year which witnessed his return, saw the laurels of Cressy and Poictiers. He appears to have died and been buried in a convent at Liege, in 1371; and Ortellius, in his Itinerarium Belgia, gives the epitaph on his tomb there, and adds that he saw the accoutrements of his journey, which were preserved as relics. St. Alban's, however, also claimed the honour of his burial-place; and Weever gives the following verses, which, he says, were written on a pillar in the Abbey of that town, admitting, at the same time, that he had seen the tomb at Liege, as described by Ortellius :
“ All ye that passe by, on this pillar cast eye,
This epitaph read, if you can :
Of a brave spirited man;
John Mandevil by name, a knight of great fame,
Born in this honoured towne:
For travaile of so high renowne.
In armour, with sword and with sheeld,
That nothing but ruines doth yeeld.
His travailes being donne, he shines like the sun
In heavenly Canaan,
Bring us all, man after man.”
Mandeville's book is, in several points of view, a peculiarly interesting work. In the first place, no book can be without its value, which narrates a visit to the land
" Where saints did live and die,”
by an intelligent traveller, of devout, chivalric feelings, nearly five hundred years ago, when religious enthusiasm still glowed with its full summer heat in the breast of the European,—when the nations of the West had scarcely dispersed those armies which had long hung like clouds over the rival fortunes of the East, when the thunders of the Vatican were still rolling against the Paynim hosts, the usurpers (as they were called) of the Holy Jerusalem, and the sepulchres of the saints,—when all Christendom dwelt with devout rapture on the recollection of visits to those spots where heaven itself had deigned to hold immediate converse with earth. Every spot was, to a sincere believer like Mandeville, truly “holy ground.” Around him, on every hand, were the living footsteps of the Divine Presence. The very rocks seemed still to lament over the saints whose martyrdom they had witnessed. Here were the infant scenes of the human race, the dwelling-place of primæyal innocence, the abodes of the patriarchs, the prophets, and the kings of Israel. The whole face of the country; the wild desert, with its green spots thinly scattered, like islands, for the repose of the weary traveller; the Dead Sea; the sacred plains of Egypt; the Nile; the rivers of Paradise; the wild, romantic mode of life of the tribes that scoured over the face of the country; all combined to awaken associations of the deepest and most reverential order. The voice which echoes to us from such scenes as these, viewed with the feelings which agitated the bosom of a traveller like Mandeville, is calculated even yet to awaken some of the most powerful emotions of the heart, and make us cease to wonder, that we sometimes find the imagination getting the better of the understanding.
Besides this religious interest, the observations which we have already made on the state of geographical and scientific information, concerning foreign countries, will show the literary value of a book, which affords interesting details of the state of Asia, at so remote a period. But there is still another point of view, in which we mean to recommend the Travels of Sir John Mandeville to the consideration of our readers; we refer to what may be called their poetic interest. Less notice has actually been taken of this, than the subject deserves ; when we reflect that the present, and similar works of less celebrity, had a very great influence in fixing, if not forming, much of the genius of the romantic poetry of the age, by reviving and giving the weight of living testimony to the materials for many of these fables. In the classic days of fiction, when the whole known world was nearly comprehended in the circle of states immediately surrounding the Mediterranean, the empire of mythology and fable was equally confined, and was usually placed near and immediately beyond the Pillars of Hercules ; within were the enchanted isles of Circe, of Calypso, and the terrors of Scylla and Charybdis; the abodes of the Cyclops, and the herds of the cattle of the sun ; beyond, were Elysium and Tartarus. In later times, the bounds of knowledge were gradually extended; and although the same poetic system retained its influence, it was obliged as gradually to remove its scene of enchantments and fiction, from post to post, till with the conquests of Alexander it reached the Indies, where new landmarks were erected by his hand, to denote the line of demarcation between the empires of substance and shade. When the progress of Christianity had expelled the old mythology, the elysium of the poet gave way to the scriptural title of Paradise. The old world had placed its scene of future existence beyond the Pillars of Hercules; the new system fixed its paradise beyond those of Alexander, in the East, where the four rivers seemed pointed out by holy writ for its boundaries; and thence.forward, this spot became the region of romance, the privileged scene of the wildest fancies. Alexander became the hero of the new circle of fiction, and his connection with Europe, and consequent commemoration in the sober annals of classic history, has alone prevented him from occupying as doubtful a position as Hercules, Bacchus, Odin, and the other worthies, whose lot it has been to meet only with the fabulous class of historians.
The history and exploits of this extraordinary man, whose sceptre, or rather sword, joined together, in compulsive union, the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe, were indelibly impressed on the recollection of the nations over whom the deluge of conquest had swept, and necessarily formed a striking subject for the exercise of the imaginative powers. He was the connecting link between the grand divisions of the world, and not only overcame the obstructions of space, but forced even the old and new time into union, and became the medium of admixture between the mythology of each. The current fables concerning his progress through India, became the basis of succeeding romance. The tales of Strabo, Ctesias, and Pliny, of the ants as big as foxes that mined for gold-of the Cynocephali—of Pygmies of the fountains which poured liquid gold, and a thousand other oriental extravagancies, were ample materials for invention and exaggeration. As early as the begin. ning of the third century, Julius Africanus had told the story of Mectanebus, the Egyptian king, the pretended father of the Macedonian monarch, which forms a leading feature in modern performances, even down to the Platt-Deutsch Volskbuch, which lies before us. Not long after, we find the conqueror's miraculous achievements moulded into an epic poem, in twentyfour books, by the poet Arrian. The Koran embodies many of the same legendary tales as circulating through Arabia : Abul Cassem Mansoor Ferdoosi sung them, in the tenth century, before Sultan Mahmood, in his Shah-namek, which avowedly borrows largely from the traditions of the Giaours or Guebres, among whom, therefore, probably the same stories were prevalent. In the following century, Simeon Seth made use of Persian materials to compile, under the assumed name of Callisthenes, a connected amplification of these wonders, in Greek, whence they passed to Europe, through the medium of Latin versions, of which La Croix, in his “ Exumen Critique des Historiens d'Alerandre le Grand,” numbers fourteen. Of these which all varied in many important particulars, the latest (that of 1489, entitled “ Historia Alexandri Magni de Præliis”) was most known. Walther de Chatellon made the story the subject of a Latin epic, in 1180. Wolfrain of Eschenbach rhymed on the same subject, and in the same century, in German. Giraldus Cambrensis re