First circulated in the fourteenth century, The Travels of Sir John Mandeville relates the adventures of an English knight who travelled to the Holy Land, India, China and beyond. Whether or not 'Mandeville' was who he claimed to be, or had visited the places he described, the book was a bestseller of its day and gives an unrivalled picture of the world as seen through medieval eyes - a world round like our own, yet with Jerusalem at its centre, where the real and the mythical exist side by side: crocodiles and dragons, Tartar and Amazon warriors, the Dead Sea and a river flowing with precious stones.

My poetry collection, Mandeville, published by Faber and Faber tells the story of Mandeville's journey round his world.


(Click on the link, where available, to read the whole review.)

"Mesmerising... packed with wonderfully vivid and elaborate descriptions, sometimes reminiscent of Byron, sometimes of Borges, of fabulous beasts and landscapes and great Eastern warlords and potentates... an extraordinary achievement." (Adam Phillips, The Observer)

"The delicacy with which Francis confronts the issues thrown up by his chosen subject in this fascinating, beautiful collection marks him out once more as one of our most skilled, intriguing and consistently ambitious poets." (Sarah Crown, The Guardian)

"In its grandeur and strangeness, Mandeville prompts comparisons with Calvino." (Sean O'Brien, The Sunday Times)

"Down-to-earth and immediate, evocative of an older world, but not a creation of archaism or pastiche. With it come the sights, sounds and sensations: riding and hearing the 'hoofs slither, feeling the spindly legbones jar'. Sensuous particulars are given to the physical and metaphysical alike... Mandeville is indeed a curious and unfamiliar pleasure." (William Wootten, TLS)

"When Keats first discovered Homer, he ended up on 'a peak in Darien' in sheer astonishment. The mental traveller of Mandeville remains surrounded by magic carpet." (Jeremy Noel-Tod, The Daily Telegraph)

This truly delightful book and its entertaining guide give us a fascinating insight into what it is to travel, to wonder and to believe. (Caroline Clark,

"Genuinely exciting to read, unputdownable in the way that poetry collections so frequently aren't... I don't expect, this year, to read a collection that uses language with such inventiveness and exuberance." (Sheenagh Pugh)

"Matthew Francis travels light, with an involving and inspiriting manner and relish for the exotica of travellers' tales that left me half expecting a quinquereme of Nineveh to come into view... Mandeville is a captivating collection, ironic in its informed approach to history and fantasy, wise in its rhetorical restraint, and thoroughly enjoyable." (Michael Hulse, Poetry Review)

"Time and again, the perfectly everyday collides with the wholly fantastical. When you encounter a first-rate poet such as Francis, you are always inclined to slow down in order to savour the quality of the making, and so it is here - there is a lovely briskness about the telling: a skipping, lightsome humour. It is all most appetisingly companionable because the poetry is so open to the marvellous." (Michael Glover, The Tablet)

"A tour de force of dramatic monologue... [Mandeville's] combination of assurance, occasional vulnerability, and appreciation of the new and strange make him consistently engaging... Mandeville proves a compelling book of impressive poetic skill, a collection to read and reread with pleasure." (Carrie Etter, Poetry Wales)

"He is able to make us see not only through Mandeville's eyes, but also to see Mandeville through our own 'reading' eyes... Mandeville takes us back to a more spiritual time." (John Haynes, Poetry Studio)

"Using Mandeville's travels lets him mine for strange and amazing metaphors... Mandeville works as a springboard for Francis's originality." (Bill Greenwell, The Independent)

"Phantasmagorical... an intriguing tribute." (Peggy Hughes, The Scotsman)

Poems from Mandeville

Of the Phoenix

Of the Dead Sea

Of Ants that Dig for Gold

Mandeville's Farewell
Back to Writings

Back to Home Page