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

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Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
page 81

had just struck them down. Oh, how dreadfully were our men then pressed! for the darts and arrows, thrown at them as they were falling back, broke the heads, arms, and other limbs of our horsemen, so that they bent, stunned, to their saddle-bows; but having quickly regained their spirits and resumed their strength, and thirsting for vengeance with greater eagerness, like a lioness when her whelps are stolen, they charged the enemy, and broke through them like a net. Then you might have seen the horses with their saddles displaced; and the Turks, who had but just now fled, returning, and pressing upon our people with the utmost fury; every cast of their darts would have told, had our men kept marching, and not stood still in a compact immovable body. The commander of the Turks was an admiral, by name Tekedmus, a kinsman of the sultan, having a banner with a remarkable device; namely, that of a pair of breeches carved thereon, a symbol well known to his men. He was a most cruel persecutor, and a persevering enemy of the Christians; and he had under his command seven hundred chosen Turks of great valour, of the household troops of Saladin, each of whose companies bore a yellow banner with pennons of a different colour. These men, coming at full charge, with clamour and haughty bearing, attacked our men who were turning off from them towards the standard, cutting at them, and piercing them severely, so that even the firmness of our chiefs wavered under the weight of the pressure; yet our men remained immovable, compelled to repel force by force, and the conflict grew thicker, the blows were redoubled, and the battle raged fiercer than before: the one side laboured to crush, the other to repel; both exerted their strength, and although our men were by far the fewest in numbers, they made havoc of great multitudes of the enemy; and that portion of the army which thus toiled in the battle could not return to the standard with ease, on account of the immense mass which pressed upon them so severely; for thus hemmed in they began to flag in courage, and but few dared to renew the attack of the enemy. In truth, the Turks were furious in the assault, and greatly distressed our men, whose blood poured forth in a stream beneath their blows. On perceiving them reel and give way, William de Barris, a renowned knight, breaking through the ranks, charged the Turks with his men; and such was the vigour of the onset that some fell by the edge of his sword, while others only saved themselves by rapid flight. For all that, the king, mounted on a bay Cyprian steed, which had not its match, bounded forward in the direction of the mountains, and scattered those he met on all sides; for the enemy fled from his sword and gave way, while helmets tottered beneath it, and sparks flew forth from its strokes. So great was the fury of his onset, and so many and deadly his blows, that day, in his conflict with the Turks, that in a short space of time the enemy were all scattered, and allowed our army to proceed; and thus our men, having suffered somewhat, at last returned to the standard, and proceeded in their march as far as Arsur, and there they pitched their tents outside its walls. While they were thus engaged, a large body of the Turks made an attack on the extreme rear of our army. On hearing the noise of the assailants, King Richard, encouraging his men to battle, rushed at full speed, with only fifteen companions, against the Turks, crying out, with a loud voice, "Aid us, O God! and the Holy Sepulchre!" and this he exclaimed a second and a third time; and when our men heard it, they made haste to follow him, and attacked, routed, and put them to flight; pursuing them as far as Arsur, whence they had first come out, cutting them down and subduing them. Many of the Turks fell there also. The king returned thence, from the slaughter of the fugitives, to his camp; and the men, overcome with the fatigues and exertions of the day, rested quietly that night. Whoever was greedy of gain, and wished to plunder the booty, returned to the place of battle, and loaded himself to his heart’s desire; and those who returned from thence reported that they had counted thirty-two Turkish chiefs who were found slain on that day, and whom they supposed to be men of great influence and power, from the splendour of their armour and the costliness of their apparel. The Turks also made search for them to carry them away, as being of the most importance; and besides these the Turks carried off seven thousand mangled bodies of those who were next in rank, besides of the wounded, who went off in straggling parties; and when their strength failed, lay about the fields and died. But by the protection of God we did not lose a tenth, nor a hundredth part so many as fell in the Turkish army. Oh the disasters of that day! Oh the trials of the warriors! for the tribulations of the just are many. Oh mournful calamity and bitter distress! How great must have been the blackness of our sins to require so fiery an ordeal to purify it! for if we had striven to overcome this urgent necessity by pious long-suffering, and without a murmur, the sense of our obligations would have been deeper.

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