Messer Marco Polo
The pope said a grand mass for them, and at the gospel he enters the pulpit, a
burly figure of a man with sad eyes.
"The blessing of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost be with you and
about you, Amen.
"It is not to you, Nicolo Polo, that I wish to speak, nor to you, Matthew Polo, for
neither of you are my ambassadors to the Great Khan. Merchant and sportsmen,
I honor you, and you have my blessing, but you have no hopes of mine. The dirty
diversions of the world are between your eyes and glory," said he. "It's only
myself, an old and sorrowful man, and this child, a young and hopeful one, can
understand; old men having sight of visions, and young men dreaming dreams. .
"Now in the matter of converting the Great Khan and his numerous millions, first
let wisdom speak. I have little hopes. He wants to be argued into it, you see.
Religion is not a matter of argument. It is a wisdom that surpasses wisdom. It
drifts in men's souls as the foggy dew comes unbidden to the trees. It is born
before our soul, as the horned moon is born before our eyes.
"And now, my child, you might say, 'What is the use of sending me to China if he
knows I cannot bring these millions into the fold? My dear son, there is the
wisdom surpassing wisdom. A great and noble thought must not die. Things of
the spirit we cannot reckon as a husband-man reckons his crops. There is a folk
on the marches of Europe, and they are ever going into battle, and they always
fall. Their results are nothing. But their name and their glory will endure forever. .
"My dear son, God has put wisdom in my head and beauty into yours. Wisdom is
needed for the governance of this world, but beauty is needed for its existence.
In arid deserts there is no life. Birds do not sing in the dark of night. Show me a
waste country, and I'll show you a brutal people. No faith can live that is not
beautiful. . .
"The beauty God has put in your heart, child, you must always keep . . .How
much I think of it I'll tell you. I'm an old man now, an old and broken man, and in
a few years I'll stand before my Master.
"'What have you seen on my earth,' He'll ask me, 'you who followed St. Peter!'