The Travels of Marco Polo/Preface/Chapter 17

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How Messer Nicolo, Messer Maffeo, and Messer Marco, Asked Leave of the Great Kaan to Go Their Way[edit]

When the Two Brothers and Mark had abode with the Lord all that time that you have been told [having meanwhile acquired great wealth in jewels and gold], they began among themselves to have thoughts about returning to their own country; and indeed it was time. [For, to say nothing of the length and infinite perils of the way, when they considered the Kaan's great age, they doubted whether, in the event of his death before their departure, they would ever be able to get home.[1]] They applied to him several times for leave to go, presenting their request with great respect, but he had such a partiality for them, and liked so much to have them about him, that nothing on earth would persuade him to let them go.

Now it came to pass in those days that the Queen BOLGANA, wife of ARGON, Lord of the Levant, departed this life. And in her Will she had desired that no Lady should take her place, or succeed her as Argon's wife, except one of her own family [which existed in Cathay]. Argon therefore despatched three of his Barons, by name respectively OULATAY, APUSCA, and COJA, as ambassadors to the Great Kaan, attended by a very gallant company, in order to bring back as his bride a lady of the family of Queen Bolgana, his late wife.[2]

When these three Barons had reached the Court of the Great Kaan, they delivered their message, explaining wherefore they were come. The Kaan received them with all honour and hospitality, and then sent for a lady whose name was COCACHIN, who was of the family of the deceased Queen Bolgana. She was a maiden of 17, a very beautiful and charming person, and on her arrival at Court she was presented to the three Barons as the Lady chosen in compliance with their demand. They declared that the Lady pleased them well.[3]

Meanwhile Messer Marco chanced to return from India, whither he had gone as the Lord's ambassador, and made his report of all the different things that he had seen in his travels, and of the sundry seas over which he had voyaged. And the three Barons, having seen that Messer Nicolo, Messer Maffeo, and Messer Marco were not only Latins, but men of marvellous good sense withal, took thought among themselves to get the three to travel with them, their intention being to return to their country by sea, on account of the great fatigue of that long land journey for a lady. And the ambassadors were the more desirous to have their company, as being aware that those three had great knowledge and experience of the Indian Sea and the countries by which they would have to pass, and especially Messer Marco. So they went to the Great Kaan, and begged as a favour that he would send the three Latins with them, as it was their desire to return home by sea.

The Lord, having that great regard that I have mentioned for those three Latins, was very loath to do so [and his countenance showed great dissatisfaction]. But at last he did give them permission to depart, enjoining them to accompany the three Barons and the Lady.

   




Footnotes[edit]

  1. Pegolotti, in his chapters on mercantile ventures to Cathay, refers to the dangers to which foreigners were always liable on the death of the reigning sovereign. (See Cathay, p. 292.)
  2. Several ladies of the name of BULUGHAN ("Zibellina") have a place in Mongol-Persian history. The one here indicated, a lady of great beauty and ability, was known as the Great Khatun (or Lady) Bulughan, and was (according to strange Mongol custom) the wife successively of Abaka and of his son ARGHUN, the Argon of the text, Mongol sovereign of Persia. She died on the banks of the Kur in Georgia, 7th April, 1286. She belonged to the Mongol tribe of Bayaut, and was the daughter of Hulaku's Chief Secretary Gugah. (Ilchan. I. 374 et passim; Erdmann's Temudschin, p. 216.) The names of the Envoys, ULADAI, APUSHKA, and KOJA, are all names met with in Mongol history. And Rashiduddin speaks of an Apushka of the Mongol Tribe of Urnaut, who on some occasion was sent as Envoy to the Great Kaan from Persia,--possibly the very person. (See Erdmann, 205.) Of the Lady Cocachin we shall speak below.
  3. Ramusio here has the following passage, genuine no doubt: "So everything being ready, with a great escort to do honour to the bride of King Argon, the Ambassadors took leave and set forth. But after travelling eight months by the same way that they had come, they found the roads closed, in consequence of wars lately broken out among certain Tartar Princes; so being unable to proceed, they were compelled to return to the Court of the Great Kaan."