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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 67

having forgot their arms, they exposed themselves to the darts, in an almost unarmed condition. One of the Turks, vaunting in the armour of the aforesaid Alberic Clements, which he had put on, was shewing himself, to the annoyance of our men, on the highest part of the wall, in a boastful manner; but King Richard inflicted on him a deadly wound, piercing him through the heart with a cast of his arbalest, the Turks, grieving at his fall ran together in crowds to avenge his death, and to assuage the bitterness of their grief by the fierceness of their onslaught, They boldly exposed themselves, as if they feared not that the darts and missiles would strike them, and repelled and pressed on our men like madmen, - never were there braver warriors of any creed on earth; and the memory of their actions excites at once our respect and astonishment. In the hottest of the combat, however close the armour fitted, or whether the coat of mail was twofold, it availed little to resist the darts from their arbalests. Nevertheless, the Turks kept mining from within, so that our men were obliged to retreat; and the enemy raised a loud shout, as if they had gained their purpose.

Chapter XIV. - How our esquires and the Pisans boldly scaled the tower, which had been shaken, for the purpose of entering the city; and how the Turks repelled them with spirit, both with arms and Greek fire.

At last the aforesaid tower was thrown down by the constant blows of our petrariǽ and the pulling away of stones; and when King Richard’s men had ceased from undermining, and the assaults were discontinued, our esquires eager for praise and victory, and fitted and equipped for war, armed themselves. Among them were the retainers of the earl of Leicester, and those of Andrew de Cavegin and Hugo Brun; there also came, most nobly arrayed. the bishop of Salisbury, and very many others. It was about tierce, i.e. the hour of dinner, when the men of valour and the most excellent esquires, prepared to attack the aforesaid tower, and forthwith boldly mounted it. The sentinels of the Turks on seeing them began to shout, and the whole city, being roused, took up arms with all haste, and ran to oppose them; and the Turks pressed in dense numbers upon the squires, who were nimbly making their way. While our men tried to enter the city, and the Turks to drive them back, they met in a body and fought hand to hand on both sides, right hand met right hand, and swords flashed against swords; some seized hold of each other, others struck each other, - some were driven back, and others fell. Our men were few in numbers; the multitude of the Turks increased constantly, and by throwing Greek fire, they forced our men, who could not withstand it, to retire and descend from the tower; some of them were killed by the enemy and afterwards burnt to ashes by this destructive conflagration. Then the Pisans, either thirsting for praise or revenge, mounted the tower in full force; but the Turks again attacked them like madmen, and although the Pisans made a bold resistance, they were compelled to retire and abandon the tower. For there never was seen any thing like that race of Turks for efficiency in war. The capture of the city would, however, have been accomplished on that day, had the battle been fought with the whole combined army, and on a prudent plan; but the greater part of the army was at dinner at the time, and the attempt was a presumptuous one, and therefore did not succeed.

Chapter XV. - A commendation of the Turks in the city, who sent Mestoc and Caracois in despair to our kings, in order to obtain a respite until they should consult Saladin, but they returned fruitlessly.

What can we say of this race of unbelievers who thus defended their city? They must be admired for their valour in war, and were the honour of their whole nation; and had they been of the right faith, they would not have had their superiors as men throughout the world. Yet they dreaded our men, not without reason, for they saw the choicest soldiers from the ranks of all Christendom come to destroy them; their walls in part broken down, in part shattered, the greater portion of their army mutilated, some killed, and others weakened by their wounds. There were still remaining in the city 6,000 Turks, with Mestoc and Caracois, their chiefs, but they despaired of succour. They perceived that the Christian army was very much dejected at the death of Alberic Clements, and their sons and kinsmen, who had fallen in battle, and that they were determined either to die bravely or gain the mastery over the Turks, and that they thought a middle course dishonourable. Under these circumstances, by common counsel and assent, the besieged begged a truce in order to inform Saladin of their condition, and to ascertain how far he would afford them security according to the manner of barbarous nations, by either sending them speedy help, or giving them leave to depart from the city with honour. To obtain this object, two of the most noble of the Saracens and of Paganism, Mestoc and Caracois, came to our kings with the promise that if Saladin

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