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Richard of Devizes Chronicle

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Richard of Devizes
page 22

commanded that it should be proclaimed through the companies that on the third day they must follow the king to battle, either to die as martyrs or to take Jerusalem by storm. This was the sum of his project, because as yet he knew nothing of the truce. For there was no one who durst even hint to him, who had so unexpectedly recovered, that which, without his knowledge, they had undertaken through fear of his death. However, Hubert Walter, bishop of Salisbury, took counsel with Count Henry concerning the truce, and obtained his ready concurrence in his wishes. So having deliberated together by what stratagem they might be able without danger to hinder such a hazardous engagement, they conceived one of a thousand, namely, to dissuade the people if possible from the enterprise. And the matter turned out most favourably; the spirit of those who were going to fight had so greatly failed, even without dissuasion, that on the appointed day, when the king, according to his custom leading the van, marshalled his army, there were not found of all the knights and shield-bearers above nine hundred. On account of which defection, the king, greatly enraged, or rather raving, and champing with his teeth the pine rod which he held in his hand, at length unbridled his indignant lips as follows: - "O God! " said he, "O God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? For whom have we foolish Christians, for whom have we English come hither from the furthest parts of the earth to bear our arms? Is it not for the God of the Christians? O fie! How good art thou to us thy people, who now are for thy name given up to the sword; we shall become a portion for foxes. O how unwilling should I be to forsake thee in so forlorn and dreadful a position, were I thy lord and advocate as thou art mine! In sooth, my standards will in future be despised, not through my fault but through thine; in sooth, not through any cowardice of my warfare, art thou thyself, my King and my God, conquered this day, and not Richard thy vassal."

Sect. 98. He said, and returned to the camp extremely dejected; and as a fit occasion now offered, bishop Hubert and Henry, count of Champagne, approaching him with unwonted familiarity, and as if nothing had yet been arranged, importuned under divers pretexts the king's consent for making such overtures to the Gentiles as were necessary. And thus the king answered them: "Since it generally happens that a troubled mind rather thwarts than affords sound judgment - I, who am greatly perplexed in mind, authorize you, who have as I see a collected mind, to arrange what you shall think most proper for the good of peace." They having gained their desires, chose messengers to send to Saffatin upon these matters; Saffatin, who had returned from Jerusalem, is suddenly announced to be at hand; the count and the bishop go to meet him, and being assured by him of the truce, they instruct him how he must speak with the lord their king. Saffatin being admitted to an interview with the king as one who before had been his friend, could scarcely prevail with the king not to make himself a sacrifice, and to consent to the truce. For so great were the man's strength of body, mental courage, and entire trust in Christ, that he could hardly be prevailed upon not to undertake in his own person a single combat with a thousand of the choicest Gentiles, as he was destitute of soldiers. And as he was not permitted to break off in this way, he chose another evasion, that, after a truce of seven weeks, the stipulations of the compact being preserved, it should remain for him to choose whether it were better to fight or to forbear. The right hands are given by both parties for faithfully observing this last agreement; and Saffatin, more honoured than burdened with the king's present, goes back again to his brother, to return at the expiration of the term for the final conclusion or breaking off of the above truce.

Sect. 99. Richard, king of England, held a council at Acre, and there prudently regulating the government of that state, he appointed his nephew, Henry, count of Champagne, on whom he had formerly conferred Tyre, to be captain and lord of the whole Land of Promise. Only he thought proper to defer his consecration as king till haply he might be crowned at Jerusalem. King Richard now thinking to return home, when with the assistance of Count Henry he had appointed chosen men for all the strongholds that had been taken in his territories, found Ascalon alone without ward or inhabitant for want of people. Wherefore, taking precaution that it might not become a receptacle of the Gentiles, he caused the ramparts and fortifications of the castle to be cast down. The seventh day of the seventh week appeared, and behold Saffatin, with many mighty ones who desired to see the face of the king, drew near; the truce was confirmed on both sides by oath, this being added to that which had been previously settled, that during the continuance of the truce no one, whether Christian or Gentile, should inhabit Ascalon, and that the whole of the tillage pertaining to the town should remain to the Christians. Hubert, bishop of Salisbury, and Henry, captain of Judea, together with a numerous hand, went up to Jerusalem to worship in the place where the feet of Christ had stood. And there was woeful misery to be seen - captive confessors of the Christian name, wearing out a hard and constant martyrdom; chained together in gangs, their feet blistered, their shoulders raw, their backsides goaded, their backs wealed, they carried materials to the hands of the masons and stone-layers to make Jerusalem impregnable against the Christians. When the captain and bishop had returned from the sacred places, they endeavoured to persuade the king to go up; but the worthy indignation of his noble mind could not consent to receive that from the courtesy of the Gentiles which he could not obtain by the gift of God.

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