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The Travels of Marco Polo

The Book of Lismore contains an Irish translation of The Travels of Marco Polo. The translation was made from a Latin version by Francesco Piponi of Bologna, in the years 1310 to 1314.

Brother Francesco Piponi was forced by his authorities to translate the manuscript into Latin from a “common tongue”, probably Tuscan or a Venetian dialect (Bergreen 348) or French (Stokes). The work was intended for use by monks in preparations for missions in the East.

From The Book of Lismore
1. …riguibh 7 taisechaibh na cathrach sin. Bai brathair righ a n-aibit san Fronses isin cathraig intansin. Ba eoluch dano isna hilbherlaibh. Fransiscus a ainm. Berur iarum dú a mbatar na maithe uent, 7 cuinghit fair in leabhor do clodh forcula o thengaidh na Tartairedh cusin tengaidh laitianda….….Nisam omhnach-sa raisin leabur-sa Mharcais, or ni fuil gó ann. Do thadhaill mu roscsa he ac tabhairt mhind na heclasi naeime lais, 7 rofagaibh fria blaisect mbais gur’ fhir son, 7 ba diadha inti Marcus.

1.… to the kings and chieftains of that city. There dwelt then in that city a king’s brother in the habit of St. Francis. He was skilled in many languages. and his name was Franciscus (Pipinus). So he is brought to the place wherein yon nobles were, and they request him to turn the book from the language of the Tartars into the Latin language……..I am not afraid of this book of Marco’s, for there is no lie in it. Mine eye beheld him bringing with him the relics of the holy Church; and he left. while tasting death, (his testimony) that it was true, and Marco was a godly man.”

About 119 early manuscript versions of the book survive, in many European languages, including Irish. There are at least 500 manuscripts of the Divine Comedy available, by Marco Polo’s contempory, Dante. The first printed versions of The Travels of Marco Polo appeared in Nuremberg in 1477.

Marco Polo
Marco Polo was born in Venice, Italy around 1254.
In 1271, when he was 17 years old, he travelled to Mongolia and China (Cathay) with his father and uncle, merchants Niccolo and Maffeo Polo. They visited the court of Kublai Khan, grandson of the Mongol Lord, Genghis Khan, at his summer palace known as Xanadu, and his capital
As an envoy of Kublai Khan, Marco Polo travelled to Burma, India, Tibet and other areas.
For 17 years, he travelled farther into China than any European had gone before. Finally, he returned home by sea to Persia. After 24 years, he reached Venice in 1295.
In 1298, war broke out between Venice and Genoa. Marco Polo was captured by the Genoese and imprisoned. While in jail, he met Rustichello and dictated the story of his travels to him.
Marco Polo died in 1324

From The Book of Lismore
Of the City of Cambalu (Bk. II. Cc. 11. 12)
68. Fil cathair n-aili la Magnus Cam. cathair Cambalu a hainm. As iside cathair oirechais na n-uili Thartraideach. Bui didin sruth for a feadh fecht riam. eo facnidh Cublay a bfaiesin neoil 7 rotha grene 7 escai celmaine dochuir do beith dó de dia mbeth in sruth trithi. ea ros-toenibh in cathair don taeb araill don tsruth la tnaichleacht 7 amaindsi.

68. Magnus Cam hath another city. a city named Cambalu. This is the capital city of all the Tartars. Now there was formerly a river throughout it. till Cublay saw in a vision clouds and circles of sun and moon. an omen that evil would befall him thence if the river should continue (flowing) through it. So by craft and skill he removed the city to the other side of the river.

69. Batar .iiii. cula for in eathraig sin 7 si míli for cech n-ae. teora dornis mnhaidi for cech ceathramain di. 7 dind dithoghlaidhi for cech ndorus 7 for cech cuil dibh. gu ngrianaunib solusda. gu halladaibh righda. Is ann sin didin cuirter a n-airm 7 a n-eidiud 7 a n-eirriud uile [fo.S3a. 1 dia taiscidh co huair chatha dhoibh. Mili laech cech n-aidehi oe faire in righ for gach ndoras don dá ndoirrsib dec soin. Ni bi oman ar bith fair. acht modh na righi do coimit.

69. There were four backs in that city. and six miles in each of them. Three brazen gates in each quarter of it. and an impregnable palace at each of the gates and angles. with shining sollars. with regal halls. Therein are put all their weapons and clothing and armour. to be stored till the hour of battle. A thousand warriors every night sentineling the king at every gate of those twelve gates. No fear at all hath he: it is only to guard the honour of the kingship.

Excerpts and Translations:
Stokes, Whitley: The Gaelic abridgement of the book of Ser Marco Polo. In: ZCP 1 (1897), S. 245–273, 362–438

Marco Polo Biography

Route Map

In Xanadu : Samuel Talyor Coleridge

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