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GEOFFREY VINSAUF Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land

 
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GEOFFREY VINSAUF
Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
page 16

light and joy of all. Let man take thought and investigate, if he may, the counsels of the Lord, whose judgments are unfathomable. Things will occur sometimes to cause him astonishment, sometimes confusion, yet so that in every circumstance man may recognize the author of all things. On the borders of Armenia there was a place, surrounded on one side by steep mountains, on the other side by the river Selesius. Whilst the sumpterhorses and baggage were passing this river, the victorious emperor halted. He was indeed an illustrious man, of stature moderately tall, with red hair and beard; his head was partly turning grey, his eyelids were prominent and his eyes sparkling; his cheeks short and wide; his breast and shoulders broad: in all other respects his form was manly. There was in him, as is read of Socrates, something distinguished and awful; for his look denoted the firmness of his mind, being always immoveably the same, neither clouded by grief, nor contracted by anger, nor relaxed by joy. He so much reverenced the native language of Germany, that although he was not ignorant of other languages, yet he always conversed with ambassadors from foreign countries by means of an interpreter. This great man, having halted some time, in consequence of the sumpter-horses crossing the river, became at last impatient of the delay; and wishing to accelerate the march, he prepares to cross the nearest part of the stream, so as to get in front of the sumpter-horses and be at liberty to proceed. O sea! O earth! O heaven! the ruler of the Roman empire, ever august, in whom the glory of ancient Rome again flourished, its honour again lived, and its power was augmented, was overwhelmed in the waters and perished! and though those who were near him hastened to his assistance, yet his aged spark of life was extinguished by a sudden though not premature death. If love of swimming, as several have asserted, be said to have caused his death, yet the gravity of the man argues the contrary; nor does it merit belief that, a bad swimmer, he would have committed to the deceitful waters the safety of so many. The conscience is witness that death is less painful than the cause of death, but this is our consolation as it is written: the just, by whatever death he shall be surprised, will be refreshed. If the mountains of Gilboa, where the brave ones of Israel were slain, deserved to be deprived of the dew and rain, what imprecations may we not deservedly utter upon this fatal river, which overthrew a main pillar of all Christendom? There were some who said that the place had been marked by a fatality from ancient times, and that the nearest rock had long borne upon it these words inscribed, "Here the greatest of men shall perish." The lamentable report of his death was spread around and filled all with dismay. If we search all the annals of antiquity, the traditions of history, and the fictions of romance, concerning the sorrows of mothers, the sighs of brides, or the distresses of men in general, the present grief will be found to be without example, never before known in any age, and surpassing all tears and lamentations. There were many of the emperor’s domestics present, with some of his kinsmen and his son; but it was impossible to distinguish them amid the general lamentation, with which all and each lamented the loss of their father and their lord. This, however, was a consolation to all, and they all returned thanks for it to Divine Providence, that he had not died within the territories of the infidels. When his funeral-rites were performed, they left the fatal spot as soon as possible, bearing with them the body of the emperor adorned with royal magnificence, that it might be carried to Antioch. There the flesh, being boiled from the bones, reposes in the church of the Apostolic see, and the bones were conveyed by sea to Tyre, thence to be transported to Jerusalem. It was fit indeed and wonderfully contrived by God’s providence, that one who had contended gloriously for Christ, should repose in the two principal churches of the Christian religion, for both of which he had been a champion, - part of him in the one, and part in the other, - the one that which our Lord’s burial rendered the most distinguished, the other that which was honoured by being the see of the chief of the apostles. The Christians arriving at Antioch, after many and long fastings, gave way too plentifully to their appetites, and died of sudden repletion: and so, after they had resisted both famine and the swords of their enemies, repose was fatal to them, and a pernicious abundance cut them off. In this shameful manner, then, the greater part of that great army perished, and most of the survivors returned to their own countries: a small body of them, ashamed to return, served under the emperor’s son, to whom the prince of Antioch surrendered his city with all its defences. For on the plea of greater protection, he offered of his own accord to commit his city to the duke, that this brave man might defend his territories against the frequent assaults of the enemies.

Chapter XXV. - Acre is besieged. King Guy is freed from his oath.

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