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Dark are Benarty slopes, an' the steep Lomon'
Flings a lang shadow on the watter plain; But fair Lochleven's no' forever gloomin', An' Devon's no aye dark wi' Lammas rain.
The birks tho' bare, an' the sune-naked ashes Not always widowed of their leaves appear; The oaks cry oot beneath November's lashes,
But not for all the months that mak' the year.
Comes round a time, comes round at last tho' creepin',
And green and glad again stand buss an'
E'en tender gowans, thro' the young gress peepin',
Rise in their weakness an' ower-rin the lea.
Thus Nature sorrows, and forgets her sorrow;
And Reason soberly approves her way: Why should we shut oor een against to
Because our sky was clouded yesterday?
BALLADE OF THE FLIGHT OF NICOLETTE. "And the daisies which she crushed in passing looked dark against her feet; the girl was so white!"
(Cantefable d'Aucassin et Nicolette, 12**.)
ALL bathed in pearl and amber light
Where brown birds sang of summertide;
"Ah Sweet!" she said, "I'll seek thee yet, Though thorniest pathways should betide The fair white feet of Nicolette."
They slept, who would have stayed her flight; (Full fain were they the maid had died !) She sped adown her prison's height
On strands of linen featly tied. And so she passed the garden-side With loose-leaved roses sweetly set, And dainty daisies, dark beside The fair white feet of Nicolette!
Her love lay pent in evil plight: (So, many lovers still abide)
I would my lips could praise aright
Her name that should be glorified!. Those lovers, now, whom foes divide Do weep awhile-and soon forget. Ah, would through these chill souls might glide
The fair white feet of Nicolette !
From Blackwood's Magazine. the commotions in Constantinople, and MARCO POLO. not some previously arranged expedition with milder motives, determined the period of their departure. At all events the dates coincide.
In the middle of the thirteenth century, two brothers of the Venetian family of Polo, established for a long time in the parish of S. Giovanni Chrisostomo, carry. The two brothers set out in 1260, when ing on their business in the midst of all the conflict was at its height, and all the the tumults of the times as if there had horrors of siege and sack were near at been nothing but steady and peaceful hand. They left behind them, it would apcommerce in the world were at the pear, an elder brother still at the head of head of a mercantile house at Constanti- the family counting-house at Constantinonople, probably the branch establishment ple, and taking with them an easily carof some great counting-house at Venice. ried stock of jewels, went forth upon the These seem prosaic terms to use in a unknown but largely inhabited world of story so full of adventure and romance; central Asia, full, as they were aware, of yet no doubt they represent, as adequately wonders of primitive manufacture, carpets as the changed aspect of mercantile life and rich stuffs, ivory and spices, furs and allows, the condition of affairs under leather. The vast dim empires of the which Niccolo and Matteo Polo exercised East, where struggles and conquests had their vocation in the great Eastern capital been going on, more tremendous than all of the world. Many Venetian merchants the wars of Europe, though under the had established their warehouses and pur- veil of distance and barbarism uncompresued the operations of trade in Constan- hended by the civilized world — had been tinople in the security which repeated vaguely revealed by the messengers of treaties and covenants had gained for Pope Innocent IV., and had helped the them, and which, under whatsoever risks | Crusaders at various points against their of revolution and political convulsions, enemies the Saracens. But neither they they had held since the days when first a nor their countries were otherwise known Venetian bailo- an officer more powerful when these two merchants set out. They than a consul, with something like the plunged into the unknown from Soldachia, rights and privileges of a governor- was crossing the Sea of Azof, or travelling settled in Constantinople. But the ordi- along its eastern shores and working nary risks were much increased at the their way slowly onward, sometimes lintime when the Latin dynasty was drawing gering in the tents of a great chief, somenear its last moments, and Palæologus times arrested by a bloody war which was thundering at the gates. The Vene- closed all passage, made their way at last tians were on the side of the falling race; to Bokhara, where all further progress their constant rivals the Genoese had seemed at an end, and where they retaken that of the rising; and no doubt the mained three years, unable either to adposition was irksome as well as dangerous vance or to go back. Here, however, they to those who had been the favored nation, had the good fortune to be picked up by and once the conquerors and all-potent certain envoys on their way to the court rulers of the great capital of the East. of "the great khan, the lord of all the Many of the bolder spirits would no doubt Tartars in the world' -envoys sent by be urged to take an active part in the the victorious prince who had become struggle which was going on; but its master of the Levant, to that distant and effect upon Niccolo and Matteo Polo was mysterious potentate. These ambassadifferent. The unsatisfactory state of af- dors, astonished to see the Frankish travfairs prompted them to carry their mer- ellers so far out of the usual track, invited chandise farther east, where they had, it the brothers to join them, assuring them is supposed, already the standing-ground that the great khan had never seen any of a small establishment at Soldachia, on Latins, and would give them an eager the Crimean peninsula. Perhaps, how- welcome. With this escort the two Veneever, it is going too far to suppose that tians travelled far into the depths of the
unknown continent until they reached the | passed to serve and help them on their city of Kublai Khan, that great prince way. Notwithstanding this, it took them shrouded in distance and mystery, whose three years of travel, painful and compliname has been appropriated by poets and cated, before they reached Acre on their dreamers, but who takes immediate form homeward. or rather Rome-ward — jourand shape in the brief and abrupt narra-ney. There they heard, to their constertive of his visitors, as a most courteous nation, that the pope was dead. This was and gentle human being, full of endless terrible news for the ambassadors, who curiosity and interest in all the wonders doubtless were fully sensible of the imwhich these sons of Western civilization portance of their mission, and expected to could tell him. The great khan received fill Christendom with wonder and admirathem with the most royal courtesy, ques- tion. In their trouble they appealed to tioning them closely about their laws and the highest ecclesiastic near, the pontifical rulers, and still more about their religion, legate in Egypt, who heard their story which seems to have excited the imagina- with great interest, but pointed out to tion and pleased the judgment of this them that the only thing they could do was calmly impartial inquirer. No doubt the to wait till a new pope was elected. This manners and demeanor of the Venetians, suggestion seems to have satisfied their devout Catholics in all the fervor habitual judgment, although the conflicts over that to their age and city, recommended their election must have tried any but a very faith. So much interested, indeed, was robust faith. The Poli then concluded the Tartar prince, that he determined to an idea which does not seem to have seek for himself and his people more au- struck them before - that having thus thoritative teaching, and to send back his certain time vacant on their hands, they merchant visitors with a petition to this might as well employ it by going to see effect addressed to the pope. No more their family in Venice. They had quitted important mission was ever intrusted to their home apparently some dozen years any ambassadors. They were commis- before, Niccolo having left his wife there, sioned to ask from the head of the Church who gave birth to a son shortly after his a hundred missionaries to convert the departure, and subsequently died. ColoTartar multitudes to Christianity. These nel Yule suggests that the wife was dead were to be wise persons acquainted with before Niccolo left Venice, which would "the seven arts," well qualified to discuss have given a certain explanation of the and convince all men by force of reason slight interest he showed in revisiting his that the idols whom they worshipped in native city. But at all events the brothers their houses were things of the devil, and went home; and Niccolo found his child, that the Christian law was better than whether born in his absence or left behind those all evil and false - which they an infant, grown into a sprightly and interfollowed. And above all, adds the simple esting boy of twelve, no doubt a delightful narrative, "he charged them to bring back discovery. They had abundant time to with them some of the oil from the lamp renew their acquaintance with all their anwhich burns before the sepulchre of Christ cient friends and associations, for months at Jerusalem." went by and still no pope was elected, The letters which were to be the cre- nor does there seem to have been any dentials of this embassy were drawn out ecclesiastical authority to whom they "in the Turkish language," in all likeli- could deliver their letters. Probably, in hood by the Venetians themselves; and a that time, any enthusiasm the two traders Tartar chief, "one of his barons," was may have had for the great work of concommissioned by the great khan to accom- verting those wild and wonderful regions pany them; he, however, soon shrank of the East had died away. Indeed the from the fatigues and perils of the jour-project does not seem to have moved ney. The Poli set out carrying with them any one save to a passing wonder; and a royal warrant, inscribed on a tablet of all ecclesiastical enterprises were appargold, commanding all men wherever they ently suspended while conclave after con
clave assembled and no result was at- | perpetual fighting along their route, they tained.
went no farther than that port of Lagos beyond which lay the unknown. The let ters of privilege, indulgences no doubt, and grants of papal favor to be distributed among the Tartar multitude, they transferred hastily to the sturdy merchants who were used to fighting as to most other dangerous things, and had no fear and ignominiously took their flight back to the accustomed and known.
At length the brothers began to tire of inaction, and to remember that through all these years of silence Kublai Khan was looking for them, wondering perhaps what delayed their coming, perhaps believing that their return home had driven all their promises from their memory, and that they had forgotten him and his evangelical desires. Stirred by this thought, they determined at last to return to their It is extraordinary, looking back upon prince, and setting out, accompanied by it, to think of the easy relinquishment of young Marco, Niccolo's son, they went such a wonderful chance as this would to Acre, where they betook themselves seem to have been. Pope and priests once more to the pious legate, Tebaldo di were all occupied with their own affairs. Piacenza, whom they had consulted on It was of more importance in their eyes to their arrival. They first asked his leave quell the Ghibellines than to convert and to go to Jerusalem to fetch the oil from civilize the Tartars. And perhaps, conthe holy lamp, the only one of the great sidering that even an infallible pope is but khan's commissions which it seemed pos- a man, this conclusion was less wonderful sible to carry out; and then, with some than it appears; for Kublai Khan was a fear apparently that their word might not long way off, and very dim and undiscern. be believed, asked him to give them let-ible in his unknown steppes and strange ters, certifying that they had done their primeval cities—whereas the emperor best to fulfil their errand, and had failed and his supporters were close at hand, only in consequence of the strange fact and very sensible thorns in consecrated that there was no pope to whom their flesh. It seems somewhat extraordinary, letters could be delivered. Provided with however, that no young monk or eager these testimonials they started on their preacher caught fire at the suggestion of long journey, but had only got as far as such an undertaking. Some fifty years Lagos on the Armenian coast, which was before, Fra Francisco from Assisi, leavtheir point of entrance upon the wild and ing his new order and all its cares, insisted immense plains which they had to trav- upon being sent to the soldan to see erse, when the news followed them that whether he could not forestall the Crusadthe pope was at last elected, and was no ers and make all the world one, by conother than their friend, the legate Tebaldo. verting that noble infidel — which seemed A messenger, requesting their return to to him the straightforward and simple Acre, soon followed, and the brothers and thing to do. If Francis had but been young Marco returned with new hopes of there with his poor brothers, vowed to a successful issue to their mission. But every humiliation, the lovers of poverty, the new pope, Gregory X., though he re- what a mission for them!-a crusade of ceived them with honor and great friend- the finest kind, with every augury of sucship, had not apparently a hundred wise cess, though all the horrors of the steppes, men to give them, nor the means of send- wild winters and blazing summers, and ing out a little Christian army to the con- swollen streams, and fighting tribes lay in quest of heathenism. All that he could their way. And had the hundred wise do for them was to send with them two men ever been gathered together, what a brothers of the order of St. Dominic, frati pilgrimage for minstrel to celebrate and predicatori, to do what they could toward story-teller to write, a new expedition of that vast work. But when the Dominicans the saints, a holier Israel in the desert! heard that war had broken out in Armenia, But nothing of the kind came about. The and that they had to encounter not only a two papal envoys, who had been the first fatiguing journey, but all the perils of to throw light upon those kingdoms be