1356 __ « Voyage de Mandeville » ou « Le Livre des merveilles du monde »''' '''(Itinerarium Johannis Maundevile, de Mirabilibus Mundi) »
‣ French comment : D'abord considéré comme un récit de voyages d'intention objectif, le livre de Mandeville, écrit en 1356, apparaît aujourd'hui comme une supercherie littéraire à grand succès. — on en conserve quelques 250 manuscrits. Traduit dès après sa rédaction française en latin et en anglais, l'œuvre puise allègrement dans bon nombre d'écrivains (Boldensele, Oderic de Pordenone, Vincent de Beauvais, "La Légende Dorée", Isidore de Séville, Jacopo de Voragine, William of Tripoli, Jacques de Vitry, Brunetto Latini, John of Sacrobosco, etc.), mais le compilateur a fait preuve de génie en fondant le tout en un ensemble cohérent, où se mêlent récits bibliques, historiques et légendaires, expériences personnelles (on s'accorde à penser que Mandeville a effectivement voyagé au Proche-Orient) et écrits divers. Y domine la voix d'un observateur avisé rapportant ses "souvenirs" de voyage dans un esprit d'universalité rare à l'époque. Sesécrits influencèrent le public, notamment Christophe Colomb qui, en y lisant que la terre était ronde, trouva stimulés ses projets d'expédition, par l'Ouest, vers "l'Inde". Cette merveilleuse compilation de récits, croyances et descriptions allant, par l'Est, de l'Atlantique aux rives du Pacifique, offre un panorama grandiose du monde au XIVième siècle, tel qu'il était imaginé à l'époque. (Jean-Claude Polet) — Jehan de Mandeville (?, mort à Liège le 17 Novembre 1372), originaire de Liège, est un explorateur, auteur d'un ouvrage intitulé le “Livre des merveilles du monde” (titre original en latin : Itineraria, c'est-à-dire voyages) qu'il rédigea à l'issue d'un voyage de 34 ans en Égypte, et dans différents pays d'Asie, jusqu'en Chine. Ce titre évoque le fameux Livre des merveilles, que l'on attribue couramment à Marco Polo, et qui, dicté par celui-ci à son compagnon en prison, s'intitulerait plutôt “Devisement du monde”. Jean de Mandeville, professeur de médecine, a affirmé être un chevalier anglais. À son retour, il a décidé, avec l’aide d’un médecin de Liège, de coucher sur le papier les histoires dont il avait été témoin, mais aussi l'acteur. Son recueil est devenu l’un des ouvrages les plus célèbres du Moyen Âge, et probablement le plus lu par ses contemporains (Christine de Pisan, Jean Sans Peur, le duc de Bourgogne). Entre récit de voyage et traité savant, il décrit le monde connu au XIVe siècle, notamment l'Asie extrême-orientale, qui était encore très peu connue à cette époque des occidentaux : seuls quelques missionnaires franciscains et dominicains, ainsi que Marco Polo, s'étaient aventurés dans ces régions lointaines. Les récits de ces premiers missionnaires (Guillaume de Rubrouck) ou explorateurs (voir le Devisement du monde, récit du voyage de Marco Polo) étaient peu diffusés en occident à cette époque, et la grande peste venait de faire de grands ravages. Jean de Mandeville fait référence aux possibilités théoriques de "circumnavigation" du monde, que l'on connaissait au XIVe siècle, puisque les grands lettrés (Albert le Grand...) avaient intégré cette notion. C'est sans doute ce qui a rendu son ouvrage si populaire à la fin du Moyen Âge. On sait en effet que Jean de Mandeville a eu une certaine influence sur Christophe Colomb. Jean de Mandeville a décrit des itinéraires, inséré des histoires et des légendes fabuleuses dans un récit mélangeant références bibliques et considérations religieuses. (Compiled from various sources)
‣ Original excerpt : « We were separated by a storm in the latitude of seventy-three, insomuch, that only the ship I was in, with a Dutch and French vessel, got safe into a creek of Nova Zembla. We landed in order to refit our vessels and store ourselves with provisions. The crew of each vessel made a cabin of turf and wood, at some distance from the others, to fence themselves against the inclemencies of the weather, which was severe beyond imagination. — We soon observed that in talking to one another we lost several of our words, and could not hear one another at above two yard's distance, and that too when we sat very near the fire. After much perplexity, I found that our words froze in the air, before they could reach the ears of the persons to whom they were spoken. I was soon confirmed in this conjecture, when, upon the increase of the cold, the whole company grew dumb, or rather deaf ; for every man was sensible, as we afterward found, that he spoke as well as ever; but the sounds no sooner took air than they were condensed and lost. It was now a miserable spectacle to see us nodding and gaping at one another, every man talking, and no man heard. One might observe a seaman that could hail a ship at a league's distance, beckoning with his hand, straining his lungs, and tearing his throat; but all in vain. — We continued here three weeks in this dismal plight. At length, upon a turn of wind, the air about us began to thaw. Our cabin was immediately filled with a dry clattering sound, which I afterward found to be the crackling of consonants that broke above our heads, and were often mixed with a gentle hissing, which I imputed to the letter 's', that occurs so frequently in the English tongue. I soon after felt a breeze of whispers by my ear; for those, being of a soft and gentle substance, immediately liquefied in the warm wind that blew across our cabin. These were soon followed by syllables and short words, and at length by entire sentences, that melted sooner or later, as they were more or less congealed; so that we now heard everything that had been spoken during the whole three weeks that we had been silent, if I may use that expression. — It was now very early in the morning, and yet, to my surprise, I heard somebody say, "Sir John, it is midnight, and time for the ship's crew to go to bed". This I knew to be the pilot's voice; and, upon recollecting myself, I concluded that he had spoken these words to me some days before, though I could not hear them until the present thaw. My reader will esaily imagine how the whole crew was amazed to hear every man talking, and see no man opening his mouth. In the midst of this great surprise we were all in, we heard a volley of oaths and curses, lasting for a long while, and uttered in a very hoarse voice, which I knew belonged to the boatswain, who was a very choleric fellow, and had taken his opportunity of cursing and swearing at me, when he thought I could not hear him. — When this confusion of voices was pretty well over, though I was afraid to offer at speaking, as fearing I should not be heard, I proposed a visit to the Dutch cabin, which lay about a mile farther up in the country. My crew were extremely rejoiced to find they had again recovered their hearing, though every man uttered his voice, with the same apprehension that I had done. — At about half a mile's distance from our cabin we heard the groanings of a bear, which at first startled us; but, upon inquiry, we were informed by some of our company, that he was dead, and now lay in salt, having been killed upon that very spot about a fortnight before, in the time of the frost. Not far from the same place we were likewise entertained with some posthumous snarls and barkings of a fox. — We at length arrived at the little Dutch settlement; and, upon entering the room, found it filled with sighs that smelt of brandy, and several other unsavory sounds, that were altogether inarticulate. My valet, who was an Irishman, fell into so great rage at what we heard, that he drew his sword; but not knowing where to lay the blame, he put it up again. We were stunned with these confused noises, but did not hear a single word until about half an hour after; this phenomenon I ascribed to the harsh and obdurate sounds of that language, which wanted more time than ours to melt and become audible. — After having here met with a very hearty welcome, we went to the cabin of the French, who, to make amends for their three weeks' silence, were talking and disputing with greater rapidity and confusion than I ever heard in an assembly, even of that nation. Their language, as I found, upon the first giving of the weather, fell asunder and dissolved. — I was here convinced of an error into which I had before fallen; for I fancied that for the freezing of the sound, it was necessary for it to be wrapped up, and, as it were, preserved in breath; but I found my mistake when I heard the sound of a kit (a small violin) playing a minuet over our heads I asked the occasion of it, upon which one of the company told me that it would play there about a week longer; 'for', says he, 'finding ourselves bereft of speech, we prevailed upon one of the company who had his musical instrument about him, to play to us from morning to night; all which time was employed in dancing in order to dissipate our chagrin. » (Unknown translator; Frozen Voices, In "Essays From Addison" edited by J H Fowler, Spectator No. 254, November 23, 1710)
‣ Source : Mandeville, Jean de (1356), “Le Livre des merveilles du monde”, édition critique par Christiane Deluz, Paris, Éditions du CNRS, 2000 (Coll. Sources d'Histoire Médiévale, 31).
‣ Source : Mandeville, Jean de (1356), "Voyage autour de la terre", traduit et commenté par Christiane Deluz, Paris : Les Belles Lettres (1993).
‣ Source : Mandeville, John (1356), "The Travels of Sir John Mandeville", translated by C.W.R.D. Moseley, Penguin Classics (1983).
‣ Source : Maundeville, John (1356), “The Voiage and Travaile of Sir John Maundevile, which treateth of the way to Hierusalem, and of marvayles of Inde, with other ilands and countryes”, reprinted from the edition of 1725, London : F.S. Ellis (1826) and London : Edward Lumley (1839).
‣ Source : Polet, Jean-Claude, and Pichois, Claude, and Poirion Daniel (1992), "Patrimoine Littéraire Européen — Tome 5 - Premières Mutations de Petrarque à Chaucer, 1304-1400)", De Boeck Université, pp. 360-366.
‣ Source : Addison, Joseph (1710), "Frozen Words", In The Heath Readers : Sixth Reader", Boston: D.C. Heath and Company (1903), pp. 116-120. (Originally published in “Essays From Addison”, edited by J H Fowler Spectator No. 254, November 23, 1710).
‣ Source : Garrett-Petts, W.F., and Lawrence, Donald (1998), “Thawing the Frozen Image/word: Vernacular Postmodern Aesthetics”, Journal article; Mosaic (Winnipeg), Vol. 31, 1998.
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