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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 94

namely, the coming down from Heaven of fire, once a year, to light the lamp. After he had watched for some time, with great attention, the devotion and contrition of many Christian captives, who were praying for the mercy of God, he and all the other Turks suddenly saw the divine fire descend, and light the lamp, so that they were vehemently moved, while the Christians rejoiced, and with loud voices praised the mighty works of God. But the Saracens disbelieved this manifest and wonderful miracle, though they witnessed it with their own eyes, and asserted that it was a fraudulent contrivance, To assure himself of this, Saladin ordered the lamp to be extinguished; which, however, was instantly rekindled by the divine power: and when the infidel ordered it to be extinguished a second time it was lighted a second time; and so likewise a third time. God is all-patient. Of what use is it to fight against the invincible Power? There is no counsel against God, nor is there any one who can resist his will. Saladin, wondering at this miraculous vision, and the faith and devotion of the Christians, and exceedingly moved, asserted by the spirit of prophecy, that he should either die or lose possession of the city of Jerusalem. And his prophecy was fulfilled; for he died the Lent following.

Chapter XVII. - How King Richard celebrated Easter Sunday at Ascalon.

King Richard celebrated the feast of Easter, which fell on the fifth of April, at Ascalon, with great magnificence; and he supplied all who needed with abundance of meat and drink. For he caused his pavilions to be pitched in the meadows outside the city, and provided in abundance every necessary for his people to celebrate the occasion with splendour. Nothing, however, was there to be seen more glorious than the ready good-will with which these bounties were dispensed, for courage in action always goes hand in hand with liberality; and where nobleness of heart harmonizes with deeds of renown, "The stingy mind suits not the bounteous hand, But rather checks its givings; let each gift Be e’er attended with a generous heart."

Chapter XVIII. - How the rebuilding of Ascalon is completed at the king’s expense.

On Easter Monday, King Richard returned with diligence to the work which he had commenced, and continued with all eagerness the rebuilding of the city walls, and familiarly urged the rest to proceed in the work; so that by his care and co-operation it was all accomplished at his own expense, and without the contributions of the French, who had departed and who ought by right to have shared in the burden.

Chapter XIX. - How King Richard set out to reconnoitre Gaza and Darum.

On Easter Tuesday, the king set out with a few followers to reconnoitre Gaza. On the Wednesday he set out to make a close survey of Darum, walking round, and trying to ascertain the best point of assault. But the Turks shut themselves up in Darum, and threw out many missiles from bows and arbalists with much abuse at the king and his men, as if the place were impregnable. When the king had fully surveyed it, he returned to Ascalon.

Chapter XX. - How the French, who were recalled to Tyre, amused themselves only in luxury and taverns.

After the French had departed, as aforesaid, those who had been charged by the king to conduct them as far as Acre returned to the camp at Ascalon; but the French, arriving at Tyre, gave themselves up to all kinds of amusements, which we may think worth while here to mention. The very men who were supposed to have been led by their devotion to succour the Holy Land, now left the camp and abandoned themselves to amatory and effeminate songs and debaucheries, for, as was told by those who saw them, they delighted in dancing-women; and their luxurious apparel bespoke their effeminacy, for the sleeves of their garments were fastened with gold chains, and they wantonly exposed their waists, which were confined with embroidered belts; and they kept back with their arms their cloaks, which were fastened so as to prevent a wrinkle being seen in their garments; and that which was once intended to cover their back, was now forced into the service of other parts of the body, for their bellies, not their backs, were covered by their cloaks; and around their necks they wore collars glittering with jewels, and on their heads garlands interwoven with flowers of every hue: they carried goblets, not falchions, in their hands, and after spending whole nights in drinking and carousing, they went, heated with wine, to the houses of prostitutes, and if by chance they were preoccupied, and the door closed against them, they pulled it down, giving utterance to language and oaths which horrified those who heard them, as

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