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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 80

Hospitallers, who had been distressed all day by their close array, following the two soldiers, charged the enemy in troops, so that the van of the army became the rear from their position in the attack, and the Hospitallers, who had been the last, were the first to charge. The count of Champagne also burst forward with his chosen company, and James d’Avennes with his kinsmen, and also Robert count of Dreux, the bishop of Beauvais, and his brother, as well as the earl of Leicester, who made a fierce charge on the left towards the sea. Why need we name each? Those who were in the first line of the rear made a united and furious charge; after them the men of Poictou, the Bretons, and the men of Anjou, rushed swiftly onward, and then came the rest of the army in a body: each troop shewed its valour, and boldly closed with the Turks, transfixing them with their lances, and casting them to the ground. The sky grew black with the dust which was raised in the confusion of that encounter. The Turks, who had purposely dismounted from their horses in order to take better aim at our men with their darts and arrows, were slain on all sides in that charge, for on being prostrated by the horse-soldiers they were beheaded by the foot-men. King Richard, on seeing his army in motion and in encounter with the Turks, flew rapidly on his horse at full speed through the Hospitallers who had led the charge, and to whom he was bringing assistance with all his retinue,and broke into the Turkish infantry, who were astonished at his blows and those of his men, and gave way to the right and to the left. Then might be seen numbers prostrated on the ground, horses without their riders in crowds, the wounded lamenting with groans their hard fate, and others drawing their last breath, weltering in their gore, and many lay headless, whilst their lifeless forms were trodden under foot both by friend and foe. Oh how different are the speculations of those who meditate amidst the columns of the cloister from the fearful exercise of war! There the king, the fierce, the extraordinary king, cut down the Turks in every direction, and none could escape the force of his arm, for wherever he turned, brandishing his sword, he carved a wide path for himself: and as he advanced and gave repeated strokes with his sword, cutting them down like a reaper with his sickle, the rest, warned by the sight of the dying, gave him more ample space, for the corpses of the dead Turks which lay on the face of the earth extended over half a mile. In fine, the Turks were cut down, the saddles emptied of their riders, and the dust which was raised by the conflict of the combatants, proved very hurtful to our men, for on becoming fatigued from slaying so many, when they were retiring to take fresh air,they could not recognize each other on account of the thick dust, and struck their blows indiscriminately to the right and to the left; so that, unable to distinguish friend from foe, they took their own men for enemies, and cut them down without mercy. Thus the Christians pressed hard upon the Turks, the latter gave way before them: but for a long time the battle was doubtful; they still exchanged blows, and either party strove for the victory: on both sides were seen some retreating, covered with wounds, while others fell slain to the ground. Oh, how many banners and standards of various forms,and pennons and many-coloured ensigns, might then be seen torn and fallen to the earth; swords of proved steel, and latices made of cane with iron heads, Turkish bows, and maces bristling with sharp teeth, darts and arrows, covering the ground, and missiles enough to load twenty waggons or more! There lay the headless trunks of the Turks who had perished, whilst others retained their courage for a time until our men increased in strength, when some of them concealed themselves in the copses, some climbed up trees, and, being shot with arrows, fell with fearful groan to the earth; others, abandoning their horses, betook themselves by slippery foot-paths to the seaside, and tumbled headlong into the waves from the precipitous cliffs that were five poles in height. The rest of the enemy were repulsed in so wonderful a manner, that for the space of two miles nothing could be seen but fugitives, although they had before been so obstinate and fierce, and puffed up with pride: but by God’s grace their pride was humbled, and they continued still to fly; for when our men ceased the pursuit, fear alone added wings to their feet. Our army had been ranged in divisions when they attacked the Turks; the Normans and English also, who had the care of the standard, came up slowly towards the troops which were fighting with the Turks, - for it was very difficult to disperse the enemy’s strength, and they stopped at a short distance therefrom, that all might have a rallying point. On the conclusion of the slaughter, our men paused; but the fugitives, to the number of twenty thousand, when they saw this, immediately recovering their courage, and armed with maces, charged the hindmost of those who were retiring, and rescued some from our men who

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