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Magnanima mensogna, hor quando è il vero
Si bello, che si possa à te preporre ?1" This learned and curious discourse is well worth perusal; but the reader will probably be led to remark, that Warton does not after all tell us whence Chaucer drew his materials, but only proves that he drew them from some Arabian source. That source may be indicated a little more distinctly; for, as will be shewn more fully below, nearly all the magical particulars are to be found in the collection now known as the Arabian Nights' Entertainments. For the rest, we may trace most of the descriptions to the travels of Marco Polo, with which Chaucer must have been acquainted to some extent, either immediately or through some channel not easily now pointed out. This suggestion occurred to me on reading a note by Colonel Yule on the name of Cambuscan; but in this I have been long anticipated by Mr. Keightley, as has been said above. The passage in Colonel Yule's edition of Marco Polo to which I refer, is as follows:
Before parting with Chingis [or Gengis Khan] let me point out what has not to my knowledge been suggested before, that the name of “Cambuscan bold" in Chaucer's tale is only a corruption of the name of Chinghiz. The name of the conqueror appears in Friar Ricold as Camiuscan, from which the transition to Cambuscan presents no difficulty. Camius was, I suppose, a clerical corruption out of Canjus or Cianjus.'—Marco Polo, ed. Yule, i. 218.
On applying to Professor Palmer for information as to the meaning of the name, he kindly pointed out to me that, in the Dictionnaire Turk-Oriental by M. Pavet de Courteille (Paris, 1870), p. 289, the word djenguiz (as M. de Courteille spells it) is explained to mean simply great. Thus Chingis Khan is no more than Great Khan; and Cambuscan merely represents the same title of
1 'O splendid falsehood, when is truth so beautiful that one can prefer her to thee ?' In Warton's book, the Italian quotations abound in misprints, not all of which are removed in Hazlitt's edition. I cannot construe .al vero,' as there printed.
Great Khan, which appears so repeatedly in Marco Polo's travels. The succession of supreme or Great Khans was as follows:-(1) Chinghiz; (2) Okkadai; (3) Kuyuk; (4) Mangku; (5) Kublai, &c. The first of these is always known by the simple title, though his real name was Temugin ; the second was his son; and the third, fourth, and fifth were all his grandsons. The descriptions in Marco Polo refer to Kublai Khan, who died in 1294. Marco describes his person with some minuteness :
“The personal appearance of the Great Kaan, Lord of Lords, whose name is Cublay, is such as I shall now tell you. He is of a good stature, neither tall nor short, but of a middle height. He has a becoming amount of flesh, and is very shapely in all his limbs. His complexion is white and red, the eyes black and fine, the nose well formed and well set on:' ed. Yule, i. 318. A portrait of him, from a Chinese engraving, is given by Colonel Yule on the next page. Kublai was succeeded by his grandson Teimur, to the exclusion of his elder brothers Kambala (who squinted) and Tarmah (who was of a weak constitution). Here we might perhaps think to see the original of Chaucer's Camballo, but I suspect the real interpretation to be very different. It is far more probable that the name Camballo was caught, not from this obscure Kambala, but from the famous word Cambaluc, really the name (not of a person, but) of the celebrated capital which Kublai built and where he resided; so that the name may easily have suggested itself from this connection?. For example, in the splendid Bodleian MS. No. 264, generally known as the “ Alexander MS.,' there is a copy of Marco Polo's Travels, with the colophon-Explicit le Livre nommé du Grant Caan de la Graunt Cité de Cambaluc ; Dieux ayde ; Amen. In fact, Cambaluc is but the old name of the city which is still the capital of China, but better known as Pekin; the etymology of the word being merely Kaan-baligh, i.e. the city of the Khan. All this may seem a little uncertainat first sight; but if the reader can turn to the second book
1 I find that Mr. Keightley has already suggested this.
of Marco Polo, he will soon see clearly enough that Chaucer's Cambuscan (though the name itself is formed from Chingis Khan) is practically identical with Marco's Kublai Khan, and that it is to Marco's description of him and his court that Chaucer is ultimately indebted for some of his details. This will be best illustrated by examples of correspondences.
Of a surety he [Kublai Khan] hath good right to such a title [that of Kaan or Emperor], for all men know for a certain truth that he is the most potent man, as regards forces and lands and treasure, that existeth in the world, or ever hath existed from the time of our first father Adam until this day ;' Marco Polo, ed. Yule, i. 295. Cf. Sq. Ta. 14.
“The empire fell to him because of his ability and valour and great worth, as was right and reason;' id. i. 296. Cf. Sq. Ta. 16.
'He had often been to the wars, and had shown himself a gallant soldier and an excellent captain;' id. i. 296. Cf. Sq.
In Book ii. ch. 4, is an account of his taking the field in person, and acting with astonishing vigour and rapidity, even at the age of seventy-three.
In Book ii. ch. 5, it is related that the enemy whom he then subdued had Christians in his army, some of whom bore standards on which the Cross was displayed. After the battle, the Christians were bitterly taunted with this, and were told that their Cross had not helped them. But Kublai reproved the scoffers, saying that the Cross had done its part well in not assisting the rebels. 'The Cross of your God did well in that it gave him [the rebel chief] no help against the right.' Cf. Sq. Ta. 16-21.
His rewards to his captains are described fully in chap. 7. He gave them silver plate, ornaments, 'fine jewels of gold and silver, and pearls and precious stones; insomuch that the amount that fell to each of them was something astonishing.' Cf. Sq. Ta. 26.
His palace, 'the greatest palace that ever was,' is described in chap. 1o. It was situate in the capital city of Cathay, which is called Cambaluc.' The hall of the palace could easily dine 6000 people. The parks within its enclosure were full of fine trees and 'beasts of sundry kinds, such as white stags and fallow deer, gazelles and roebucks,' &c. Cf. Sq. Ta. 60-62, 392.
And when the great Kaan sits at table on any great court occasion, it is in this fashion. His table is elevated a good deal above the others, and he sits at the north end of the hall, looking towards the south, with his chief wife beside him on the left,' &c.; i. 338. Near the table is a golden butt, at each corner of which is one of smaller size holding a firkin, "and from the former the wine or beverage flavoured with fine and costly spices is drawn off into the latter;' i. 339. 'And when the Emperor is going to drink, all the musical instruments, of which he has vast store of every kind, begin to play; ' i. 340. 'I will say nought about the dishes, as you may easily conceive that there is a great plenty of every possible kind. And when all have dined and the tables have been removed, then come in a great number of players and jugglers, adepts at all sorts of wonderful feats,' &c.; i. 340. Cf. Sq. Ta. 59-68, 77–79, 266-271, 218, 219.
• You must know that the Tartars keep high festival yearly on their birthdays.
Now on his birthday, the Great Kaan dresses in the best of his robes, all wrought with beaten gold;' i. 343. "On his birthday also, all the Tartars in the world, and all the countries and governments that `owe allegiance to the Kaan, offer him great presents according to their several ability, and according as prescription or orders have fixed the amount;' i. 344. Cf. Sq. Ta. 44-47, 110-114.
The Kaan also holds a feast called the White Feast' on Newyear's day. “On that day, I can assure you, among the customary presents there shall be offered to the Kaan from various quarters more than 100,000 white horses, beautiful animals, and richly caparisoned ;' i. 346.
When he goes on a hunting expedition, 'he takes with him full 10,000 falconers, and some 500 gerfalcons besides peregrines, sakers, and other hawks in great number;' i. 358. He also has another grand park’ at Chandu?, 'where he keeps his gerfalcons in mew;' i. 365. At p. 260 he is described again as 'very fond of hawking.' At p. 237 the peregrine falcons are described particularly. At p. 220 we are told that the Tartars eat all kinds of flesh, including that of horses and dogs, and Pharaoh's rats.' Cf. Sq. Ta. 424-429, 69-71.
In the great city of Kinsay "there is an eminence on which stands a tower. This was used as an alarm-tower in case of fire; see vol. ii. p. 148. This may serve to illustrate Chaucer's maister tour. Still more curious is the account of the city of Mien, with its two towers covered with plates of gold and silver, which ‘form one of the finest sights in the world;' ii. 73. These towers were, however, part of a mausoleum. Cf. Sq. Ta. 176, 226.
The following note about the Tartar invasion of Russia is also worthy of attention.
'Rosia (Russia) is a very great province, lying towards the north. . . . There are many strong defiles and passes in the country; and they pay tribute to nobody except to a certain Tartar king of the Ponent [i.e. Wesł], whose name is Toctai; to him indeed they pay tribute, but only a trifle.' Marco Polo, ed. Yule, ii. 417.
On this passage Col. Yule has the noteRussia was overrun with fire and sword as far as Tver and Torshok by Batu Khan (1237–38), some years before his invasion of Poland and Silesia. Tartar tax-gatherers were established in the Russian cities as far north as Rostov and Jaroslaw), and for many years Russian princes as far as Novgorod paid homage to the Mongol Khans in their court at Sarai?. Their subjection to the Khans was not such a trifle as Polo seems to imply; and at least a dozen princes met their death at the hands of the Mongol executioner.'
Some of the Mongolian Tartars, known as the Golden Horde,'
Evidently Shangtu, Coleridge's Xanadu. See his well-known lines—'In Xanadu did Kubla Khan,' &c.
2 This is Chaucer's • Sarra'; see note to F 9.