Of the Royal Estate of Prester John. And of a rich Man that made a marvellous Castle and called it Paradise; and of his Subtlety
THIS Emperor, Prester John, holds full great Land, and hath many full noble Cities and good Towns in his Realm, and many great divers Isles and large. For all the Country of Ind is divided into Isles by the great Rivers that come from Paradise, that part all the Land into many Parts. And also in the Sea he hath full many Isles. And the best City in the Isle of Pentexoire is Nyse, that is a full Royal City and a noble, and full rich.
This Prester John hath under him many Kings and many Isles and many divers Folk of divers Conditions. And this Land is full good and rich, but not so rich as is the Land of the great Chan. For the Merchants come not thither so commonly to buy Merchandises, as they do in the Land of the great Chan, for it is too far to travel to. And on that other Side, in the Isle of Cathay, Men find all manner of Thing that is need-ful to ManCloths of Gold, of Silk, and Spicery. And therefore, albeit that Men have greater Cheapness in the Isle of Prester John, nevertheless, Men dread the long Way and the great Perils in the Sea in those Parts.
For in many Places of the Sea be great Rocks of Stones of the Adamant (or Lode-stone,) that of his own Nature draweth Iron to him. And therefore pass there no Ships that have either Bonds or Nails of Iron within them. And if they do, anon the Rocks of the Adamants draw them to them, that never they may go thence. I myself have seen afar off in that Sea as though it had been a great Isle full of Trees and Bush, full of Thorns and Briars, great Plenty. And the Shipmen told us, that all that was of Ships that were drawn thither by the Adamants, for the Iron that was in them. And from the Rotten-ness, and other Things that were within the Ships, grew such Bush, and Thorns and Briars and green Grass, and such manner of Things, and from the Masts and the Sail-yards it seemed a great Wood or a Grove. And such Rocks be in many Places thereabout. And therefore dare not the Merchants pass there, but if they know well the Passages, or else that they have good Pilots.
And also they dread the long Way. And therefore they go to Cathay, for it is more nigh. And yet it is not so nigh, but that Men must be travelling by Sea and Land, 11 Months or 12, from Genoa or Venice, ere they come to Cathay. And yet is the Land of Prester John more far by many dreadful Days Journeys.
And the Merchants pass by the Kingdom of Persia, and go to a City that is clept Hermes (Ormuz,) for Hermes the Philosopher founded it. And after that they pass an Arm of the Sea, and then go to another City that is clept Golbache. And there they find Merchandises, and of Popinjays (or Parrots,) as great. Plenty as Men find here of Geese. And if they will pass further, they may securely enough. In that Country is but little go Wheat or Barley, and therefore they eat Rice and Honey and Milk and Cheese and Fruit.
This Emperor Prester John taketh always to Wife the Daughter of the great Chan; and the great Chan also, in the same Wise, the Daughter of Prester John. For these 2 be the greatest Lords under the Firmament.
In the Land of Prester John be many divers Things and many precious Stones, so great and so large, that Men make of them Vessels, as Platters, Dishes and Cups. And many other Marvels be there, that it were too cumbrous and too long to put in Writing of Books; but of the principal Isles and of his Estate and of his Law, I shall tell you some Part.
This Emperor Prester John is Christian, and a great Part of his Country also. But yet, they have not all the Articles of our Faith as we have. They believe well in the Father, in the Son and in the Holy Ghost. And they be full devout and right true to one another. And they set no Store by any Contests, nor by Tricks, nor on any Deceits.
For in his Country is the Sea that Men call the Gravelly Sea, that is all Gravel and Sand, without any Drop of Water, and it ebbeth and floweth in great Waves as other Seas do, and it is never still nor at Peace, in any manner of Season. And no Man may pass that Sea by Ship, nor by any manner of Craft, and therefore may no Man know what Land is beyond that Sea. And albeit that it have no Water, yet Men find therein and on the Banks full good Fishes of other manner of Nature and Shape, than Men find in any other Sea, and they be of right good Taste and delicious for Mans Meat.
And a 3 Days Journey long from that Sea be great Mountains, out of the which goeth out a great River that cometh out of Paradise. And it is full of precious Stones, without any Drop of Water, and it runneth through the Desert on the one Side, so that it maketh the Sea gravelly; and it runneth into that Sea, and there it endeth. And that River runneth, also, 3 Days in the Week and bringeth with him great Stones and the Rocks also there with, and that great Plenty. And anon, as they be entered into the Gravelly Sea, they be seen no more, but lost for evermore. And in those 3 Days that that River runneth, no Man dare enter into it; but on other Days Men dare enter well enough.
Also beyond that River, more upward to the Deserts, is a great Plain all gravelly, between the Mountains. And in that Plain, every Day at the Sun-rising, begin to grow small Trees, and they grow till Mid-day, bearing Fruit; but no Man dare take of that Fruit, for it is a Thing of Faerie. And after Mid-day, they decrease and enter again into the Earth, so that at the going down of the Sun they appear no more. And so they do, every Day. And that is a great Marvel.
In that Desert be many Wild Men, that be hideous to look on; for they be horned, and they speak nought, but they grunt, as Pigs. And there is also great Plenty of wild Hounds. And there be many Popinjays (or Parrots,) that they call Psittakes1 in their Language. And they speak of their own Nature, and say, Salve! (God save you!) to Men that go through the Deserts, and speak to them as freely as though it were a Man that spoke. And they that speak well have a large Tongue, and have 5 Toes upon a Foot. And there be also some of another Manner, that have but 3 Toes upon a Foot, and they speak not, or but little, for they cannot but cry.
This Emperor Prester John when he goeth into Battle against any other Lord, he hath no Banners borne before him; but he hath 3 Crosses of Gold, fine, great and high, full of precious Stones, and every one of the Crosses be set in a Chariot, full richly arrayed. And to keep every Cross, be ordained 10,000 Men of Arms and more than 100,000 Men on Foot, in manner as when Men would keep a Standard in our Countries, when that we be in a Land of War. And this Number of Folk is besides the principal Host and besides the Wings ordained for the Battle. And when he hath no War, but rideth with a private Company, then he hath borne before him but one Cross of Tree, without Painting and without Gold or Silver or precious Stones, in Remembrance that Jesu Christ suffered Death upon a Cross of Wood. And he hath borne before him also a Platter of Gold full of Earth, in Token that his Nobleness and his Might and his Flesh shall turn to Earth. And he hath borne before him also a Vessel of Silver, full of noble Jewels of Gold full rich and of precious Stones, in Token of his Lordship and of his Nobleness and of his Might.
He dwelleth commonly in the City of Susa. And there is his principal Palace, that is so rich and noble, that no Man will believe it by Estimation, but he had seen it. And above the chief Tower of the Palace be 2 round Pommels or Balls of Gold, and in each of them be 2 Carbuncles great and large, that shine full bright upon the Night. And the principal gates of his Palace be of precious Stone that Men call Sardonyx, and the Border and the Bars be of Ivory. And the Windows of the Halls and Chambers be of Crystal. And the Tables whereon Men eat, some be of Emeralds, some of Amethyst, and some of Gold, full of precious Stones; and the Pillars that bear up the Tables be of the same precious Stones. And of the Steps to go up to his Throne, where he sitteth at Meat, one is of Onyx, another is of Crystal, and another of green Jasper, another of Amethyst, another of Sardine, another of Cornelian, and the 7th, that he setteth his Feet on, is of Chrysolite. And all these Steps be bordered with fine Gold, with the tother precious Stones, set with great orient Pearls. And the Sides of the Seat of his Throne be of Emeralds, and bordered with Gold full nobly, and dubbed with other precious Stones and great Pearls. And all the Pillars in his Chamber be of fine Gold with precious Stones, and with many Carbuncles, that give Light upon the Night to all People. And albeit that the Carbuncles give Light right enough, nevertheless, at all Times burneth a Vessel of Crystal full of Balm, to give good Smell and Odour to the Emperor, and to void away all wicked Eyes and Corruptions. And the Form of his Bed is of fine Sapphires, bound with Gold, to make him sleep well and to refrain him from Lechery; for he will not lie with his Wives, but 4 Times in the Year, according to the 4 Seasons, and that is only to engender Children.
And ye shall understand, that in all his Country and in the Countries there all about, Men eat not but once in the Day, as Men do in the Court of the great Chan. And so they eat every Day in his Court, more than 30,000 Persons, besides Goers and Comers. But the 30,000 Persons of his Country, and of the Country of the great Chan, spend not so much in goods as do 12,000 of our Country.
This Emperor Prester John hath evermore 7 Kings with him to serve him, and they share their Service by certain Months. And with these Kings serve always 72 Dukes and 360 Earls. And all the Days of the Year, there eat in his Household and in his Court, 12 Archbishops and 20 Bishops. And there the Patriarch of Saint Thomas is as the Pope here. And the Archbishops and the Bishops and the Abbots in that Country be all Kings. And every one of these great Lords know well enough the Attendance of their Service. The one is Master of his Household, another is his Chamberlain, another serveth him with a Dish, another with the Cup, another is Steward, another is Marshal, another is Prince of his Arms, and thus is he full nobly and royally served. And his Land endureth verily in Breadth 4 Months Journeys, and in Length beyond Measure, that is to say, to all the Isles under the Earth that we suppose to be under us.
Beside the Isle of Pentexoire, that is the Land of Prester John, is a great Isle, long and broad, that Men call Mistorak; and it is in the Lordship of Prester John. In that Isle is great Plenty of Goods.
There was dwelling there, sometime, a rich Man; and it is not long since; and Men called him Gatholonabes. And he was full of Tricks and of subtle Deceits. And he had a full fair Castle and a strong in a Mountain, so strong and so noble, that no Man could devise a fairer or a stronger. And he had made wall all the Mountain about with a strong Wall and a fair. And within those Walls he had the fairest Garden that any Man might behold. And therein were Trees bearing all manner of Fruits, that any Man could devise. And therein were also all manner of Herbs of Virtue of good Smell, and all other Herbs also that bear fair Flowers. And he had also in that Garden many fair Wells; and beside those Wells he had made fair Halls and fair Chambers, painted all with Gold and Azure; and there were painted in that Place many divers Things, and many diverse Stories of Beasts, and of Birds that sung full delectably and moved by Craft, that it seemed that they were alive. And he had also in his Garden all manner of Fowls and of Beasts that any Man might think on, to have Play or Sport to behold them.
And he had also, in that Place, the fairest Damsels that might be found, under the Age of 15 Years, and the fairest young Striplings that Men might get, of that same Age. And they were all clothed in Cloths of Gold, full richly. And he said that those were Angels.
And he had also made 3 Wells, fair and noble, and all environed with Stone of Jasper, and of Crystal, diapered with Gold, and set with precious Stones and great orient Pearls. And he had made a Conduit under the Earth, so that the 3 Wells, at his List, should run, one Milk, another Wine and another Honey. And that Place he clept Paradise.
And when that any good Knight, that was hardy and noble, came to see this Royalty, he would lead him into his Paradise, and show him these wonderful Things for his Sport, and the marvellous and delicious Song of divers Birds, and the fair Damsels, and the fair Wells of Milk, Wine and Honey, plenteously running. And he would make divers Instruments of Music to sound in an high Tower, so merrily, that it was Joy to hear; and no Man should see the Craft thereof. And those, he said, were Angels of God, and that Place was Paradise, that God had promised to his Friends, saying, Dado vobis Terram fluentem Lacte et Melle. (I shall give thee a Land flowing with Milk and Honey.) And then would he make them to drink of certain Drink, whereof anon they should be drunk. And then would they think it greater Delight than they had before. And then would he say to them, that if they would die for him and for his Love, that after their Death they should come to his Paradise; and they should be of the Age of the Damsels, and they should play with them, and yet be Maidens. And after that should he put them in a yet fairer Paradise, where that they should see the God of Nature visibly, in His Majesty and in His Bliss. And then would he shew them his Intent, and say to them, that if they would go slay such a Lord, or such a Man that was his Enemy or contrarious to his List, that they should not therefore dread to do it and to be slain themselves. For after their Death, he would put them in another Paradise, that was an 100-fold fairer than any of the tother; and there should they dwell with the most fairest Damsels that might be, and play with them ever-more.
And thus went many divers lusty Bachelors to slay great Lords in divers Countries, that were his Enemies, and made themselves to be slain, in Hope to have that Paradise. And thus, often-time, he was revenged of his Enemies by his subtle Deceits and false Tricks.
And when the worthy Men of the Country had perceived this subtle Falsehood of this Gatholonabes, they assembled them with Force, and assailed his Castle, and slew him, and destroyed all the fair Places and all the Nobilities of that Paradise. The Place of the Wells and of the Walls and of many other Things be yet openly seen, but the Riches be clean voided. And it is not long ago, since that Place was destroyed.