« AnteriorContinuar »
richly varnished that no water can penetrate. I assure you that these canes are more than three palms thick, and from ten to fifteen paces long. They are cut lengthways, from one knot to the other, and then arranged so as to form the roof. The whole structure is so disposed that the Khan, when he pleases, can order it to be taken down, for it is supported by more than two hundred cords of silk. His majesty remains there three months of the year, June, July, and August, the situation being cool and agreeable ; and during this period his palace of cane is set up, while all the rest of the year it is down. On the 28th of August, he departs thence, and for the following purpose :—there are a race of mares white as snow, with no mixture of
other colour, and in number 10,000, whose milk must not be drunk by any one who is not of imperial lineage. Only one other race of men can drink it, called Boriat, because they gained a victory for Gengis Khan. When one of these white animals is passing, the Tartars pay respect to it as a great lord, standing by to make way for it.
Now for the architecture and landscape gardening of the poet:
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
Down to a sunless sea.
But, oh! that deep romantic ehasm which slanted
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
From the fountain and the caves.
A damsel with a dulcimer
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 't would win me
dome! those caves of ice !
Neither Marco Polo, nor Rubruquis, no, nor Raleigh himself, nor any traveller that existed, ever saw a vision like that!
But we must hasten out of its divine company. Marco resumes with an account of
KUBLA KHAN'S PERSON AND STATE.
The Great Khan, lord of lords, named Kublai, is of a fine middle size, neither too tall nor too short; he has a beautiful fresh complexion, and well-proportioned limbs. His colour is fair and vermeil like the
dark and fine, his nose well formed and placed. He has four ladies, who always rank as his wives; and the eldest son, born to him by one of them, succeeds as the rightful heir of the empire. They are named empresses; each bears his name, and holds a court of her own; there is not one who has not three hundred beautiful maidens, with eunuchs, and many other male and female attendants, so that some of the courts of these ladies contain 10,000 persons.
Kubla resides in the vast city of Kambalu, three months in the year, December, January, and February, and has here his great palace, which I will now describe.
of the year.
The floor rises ten palms above the ground, and the roof is exceedingly lofty. The walls of the chambers and stairs are all covered with gold and silver, and adorned with pictures of dragons, horses, and other races of animals. The hall is so spacious that 6000 can sit down to banquet; and the number of apartments is incredible. The roof is externally painted with red, blue, green, and other colours, and is so varnished that it shines like crystal, and is seen to a great distance around.
The Tartars celebrate a festival on the day of their nativity. The birthday of the Khan is on the 28th of September, and is the greatest of all, except that at the beginning
On this occasion he clothes himself in robes of beaten gold, and his twelve barons and 12,000 soldiers wear, like him, dresses of a uniform color and shape; not that they are so costly, but similarly made of silk, gilded, and bound by a cincture of gold. Many have their robes adorned with precious stones and pearls, so as to be worth 10,000 golden bezants. The Great Khan, twelve times in the year, presents to those barons and knights robes of the same colour with his own; and this is what no lord in the world can do.
And now I will relate a most wonderful thing, namely, that a large lion is led into his presence, which as soon as it sees him, drops down, and makes a sign of deep humility, owning him for its lord, and moving about without any chain.
Chaucer had certainly read of Kubla. He has described him sitting, as above, at his table,
“Harking his minstrelles their thingês play
Before him at his board, deliciously." And so, leaving him in this proper imperial attitude with his minstrelsy,
his lords, and his lion, we take leave of Marco and his mighty Khan. Nations in those times appear to have tried what they could do to ag. gravate the welfare and importance of a single man.
It was a very absurd though a very amusing endeavour. The single man, at his peril, at least in Europe, must now try what he can do to aggravate the welfare and importance of the people.
We must not quit, however, the old times of travels, and the most authentic of their illustrators, without quoting some passages in the narratives of Mandeville, Oderico, and others, whose names, though not worthy to stand beside the former, are associated with those regions of wild and preternatural interest which lie between truth and fiction; places, of which more is truly related than the narrators have been given credit for, but with such colouring from the reports of others, and from their own excited imagination, as give us leave to doubt or to believe just as much as may be suitable to the frame of mind in which we read them. The dreadful or delightful sounds, for instance, which these old travellers heard in deserts, have been reasonably attributed to winds and other natural causes; and the terrible “faces” which they saw, to robbers or gigantic sculpture. But what care we for "pure reason,” when we desire romance? There is enough mystery in everything, however commonplace, to leave its causes inexplicable; and if we choose to have our mysterious music or our terrible face without the alloy of explanation, “neat as imported,” we have all the right in the world, whether as boys or sages, to have the wish indulged.
FRIAR ODERIC'S RICH MAN WHO WAS FED BY FIFTY VIRGINS.
While in the province of Mangi, or Southern China, I passed by the palace of a rich man, who is continually attended upon by fifty young virgins, who feed him at every meal as a bird feeds her young; and all the time they are so employed, they sing to him most sweetly. The revenues of this man are thirty tomans of tagars of rice, each toman being 10,000 ta rs, and one
is the burthen of an ass. His palace is two miles in circuit, and is paved with alternate layers of gold and silver. Near the wall of his palace there is an artificial mould of gold and silver, having turrets