Anthology of Modern Slavonic Literature in Prose and Verse/Marco Polo


I, Marco Polo, Christian and Venetian,
Acknowledge God the Trinity and cherish
Hope of salvation in eternity
For my sin-laden soul: In this my faith,
In this my trust is set. What of my love,
Ye ask? And I give answer tranquilly:
My love is long and distant journeys; ever
New-found horizons, new-found peoples, fresh
Exploits on ocean and dry land, and ever
Fresh enterprises. (This, my forebears' blood)
Much have I seen, to much have given ear;
I reached the land, whereof ye scarce have inkling,
Where amber grows like golden foliage,
Where salamanders (that ye dub asbestos)
Blossom and blaze like lilies petrified,
Where glowing naphtha gushes from the earth,
Where there is equal wealth of rubies, as

Of holly here in winter; where across
Their back and on their shoulders they tattoo
The image of an eagle; where the women
Alone rule, and the men are given up
From birth to heavy service till they die.
I gazed upon the realm whose ruler is
Khan of Cathay; and I have sat at meat
With those who feed on men: I was a wave
Amid the surf: the mighty emerald
(Pre-destined for the vizier of Bagdad)
Beneath my tongue I carried through the desert.
For thirty days and nights I came not down
Out of my saddle. I have seen great deserts
Like ruffled raiment billowing afar;
The ocean sleeping underneath the moon
Like a stiff winding-sheet; strange stars ablaze
Beneath strange zones. I visited the realms
Of Prester John, where goodness, virtue and
Righteousness ruled, as in a legend,—yea,
Now meseems almost that I even reached
The wondrous nook of earth, where Alexander
Once lighted on the wilderness of Ind,
And came no farther on his way, because
Of mighty downpours that abated not.
(Perchance upon the faery realm he there
Set foot, or e'en upon the town celestial,
And shrank away in dread, when at the gate
An angel put a skull into his hand,
Saying: "A few more years, and this shall be
Thy portion,—this, and not a tittle more!")

And I beheld that land of mystery
Where lay the paradise of earth, where flowed
The spring of youth, concealed within the grass
Amid a thousand others, whence I drank
From many, and, 'tis very like, from youth:
And therefore all endured I with acclaim,
And therefore all, as in a mirror, I
Perceive within my soul, and now portray it.
The world is changed of aspect: I shall die
Like others, but my heritage remains:
The lust for seeing all and learning all,
To ransack all for the delight of man;
Legion shall be my sons: they shall proceed
Farther than I, but scarcely shall see more,
For earth sheds wonders as a snake its skin.

Old age I know, with many dreams and secrets,
And that suffices me. And they who come
After me, let them take, as it may chance,
Of what remains to them, as best they can,
As I did. I sit foremost at the feast
Of distant journeys, and it likes me well.
All prospers me, and I fare well with all.
To make all life a vigil over books,
To rack one's brain 'mid piles of yellow parchments,
Seeking the truth of writing and of thought,
Is much, in sooth; to live an age in camps
'Mid roll of drums and trumpets in assaults,
O'er ramparts in a rain of missiles, in

Ruins of towns, amid laments of women,
Weeping of children, groaning of the fallen,
Is much, in sooth; to be a holy bishop,
Legions of spirits heavenward to escort,
(The which be knoweth not) by solace of
The faith alone, and by the word of God,
In marble and in gold to hearken to
The cadence and the dreamy grief of psalms.
Is much, in sooth; but to behold and know
With one's own eyes the distant, ample lands,
And oceans, plains and star-tracks of the skies,
And divers folk, their habit, usage, gods,
This too, availeth somewhat, and hath charm
By special token of its newness, that
Doth ever change. And I have lived it through,
I, Marco Polo, Christian and Venetian.

"New Fragments of an Epic" (1894).

Copyright.svg PD-icon.svg This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.

This work was published before January 1, 1927, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1927.

The author died in 1970, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 50 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.