Beyond that again is the kingdom of Prester John
and of the great Cham.
What mind, that is not wholly barbarous and uncultured, can find pleasure in reading of how a great tower full of knights sails away across the sea like a ship with a fair wind, and will be to-night in Lombardy and to-morrow morning in the land of Prester John
of the Indies, or some other that Ptolemy never described nor Marco Polo saw?
Its tales of the Ethiopian Prester John
, of diamonds that by proper care can be made to grow, of trees whose fruit is an odd sort of lambs, and a hundred other equally remarkable phenomena, are narrated with skilful verisimilitude and still strongly hold the reader's interest, even if they no longer command belief.
I have it from my husband, who is a cinquantenier**, at the Parloir-aux Bourgeois, and who was this morning comparing the Flemish ambassadors with those of Prester John
and the Emperor of Trebizond, who came from Mesopotamia to Paris, under the last king, and who wore rings in their ears.
Whether it is the apartment of Sherlock Holmes, the house of Madame Bovary, the lands of Prester John
, the ruins of Glastonbury, or the Dublin of Leopold Bloom, the relationship between the imaginary and the real has historically provided us with a sort of forged, altered map of the real as it emerged from the human imagination.
The catalogue is marvelously broad, including everything from rhetorico-philosophical scholarly commentaries in the Arabic tradition to the Letter of Prester John
, and Rumi to Dante.
The poem opens with a fitful profusion of forms: an italicized voice-over promising relief from unspecified symptoms, in tones that range from the Californian ("from harsh to mellow") to the Prynnish ("tutelary / update deficiency tabs"), yields to a skewed quest scenario, with the narrator accompanied by the mythic and contested figure of Prester John
through a space at once pastoral and urban: "steel stairs lead up an embankment.
Although Jordanus de Severac in the fourteenth century referred the realm of Prester John
as located in Ethiopia (42), Webbe related it to the land beyond Damascus while Don Pedro of Portugal placed the mythical land in the Indies (see Nowell 435).
Sean Hanlon: "Deep Freeze: A Prester John
Riordan Mystery" (1992) features a hero who works for the speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives.
In 1520 the Portuguese king, Henry the Navigator, sent an expeditionary force to find Prester John
A large part of Purchas his Pilgrimage, Book Seven, has been devoted to the legendary Prester John
(or Priest John), described as "the Alpha of learned men in our age" (671), and his Ethiopian empire with constant references to Abyssinian associations, the "great" Queen of Sheba (Coleridge's Abyssinian maid?
If the novel is read only for the surface story, Prester John
may seem a flaw in the construction--too much a 'god from the machine,' someone brought in at the last moment to save the good people and punish the bad so that there will be a happy ending.