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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 116

failing him. "Most noble king, the remnant of our people, waiting for your arrival, are exposed like sheep to be slain, unless the divine grace shall bring you to their rescue." "Are any of them still alive, then?" asked the king, "and if so, where are they?" "There are still some of them alive," said the priest," and hemmed in and at the last extremity in front of yonder tower." "Please God, then," replied the king, "by whose guidance we have come, we will die with our brave brothers in arms, and a curse light on him who hesitates." The word was forthwith given, the galleys were pushed to land: the king dashed forward into the waves with his thighs unprotected by armour, and up to his middle in the water; he soon gained firm footing on the dry strand: behind him followed Geoffrey du Bois and Peter de Pratelles, and in the rear came all the others rushing through the waves. The Turks stood to defend the shore, which was covered with their numerous troops. The king, with an arbalest which he held in his hand, drove them back right and left; his companions pressed upon the recoiling enemy, whose courage quailed when they saw it was the king, and they no longer dared to meet him The king brandished his fierce sword, which allowed them no time to resist, but they yield before his fiery blows, and are driven in confusion with blood and havoc by the king’s men until the shore was entirely cleared of them. They then brought together beams, poles, and wood, from the old ships and galleys to make a barricade; and the king placed there some knights, servants, and arbalesters, to keep guard and to dislodge the Turks, who, seeing that they could no longer oppose our troops, dispersed themselves on the shore with cries and howlings in one general flight. The king then, by a winding chair, which he had remarked in the house of the Templars, was the first to enter the town, where he found more than 3,000 of the Turks turning over every thing in the houses, and carrying away the spoil. The brave king had no sooner entered the town, than he caused his banners to be hoisted on an eminence, that they might be seen by the Christians in the tower, who taking courage at the sight, rushed forth in arms from the tower to meet the king, and at the report thereof the Turks were thrown into confusion. The king, meanwhile, with brandished sword, still pursued and slaughtered the enemy, who were thus enclosed between the two bodies of the Christians, and filled the streets with their slain. Why need I say more? All were slain, except such as took to flight in time; and thus those who had before been victorious were now defeated and received condign punishment, whilst the king still continued the pursuit, shewing no mercy to the enemies of Christ’s Cross, whom God had given into his hands; for there never was a man on earth who so abominated cowardice as he.

Chapter XVI. - Of the severe conflicts by which the king made Saladin raise the siege, and fixed his own tents where those of Saladin had been.

But the king had only three horses with him, and what were three among so many? If we examine the deeds of the ancients, and all the records left us by former historians, we shall find that there never was a man who so distinguished himself in battle as King Richard did this day. When the Turks leaving the town saw his banners floating in the air, a cry was raised on right and left as he sallied forth upon them, and no hailstorm or tempest ever so densely concealed the sky, as it was then darkened by the flying arrows of the Turks. Saladin, hearing of the king’s arrival, and of his brilliant contest with the Turks, of whom he had slain all who opposed him, was seized with sudden fear, and like that timid animal, the hare, put spurs to his horse and fled from before his face. The king, with his men, still continued the pursuit, slaying and destroying, whilst his arbalesters made such havoc of the horses, that for two miles the traces of their flight were visible. He now therefore pitched his tent in the same place where those of Saladin had been, and thus by the divine grace so small a body of men had defeated this large army of the Turks. Saladin called together his admirals and thus addressed them: "Has he then beaten all of us? Has the Christian army returned from Acre to slaughter and defeat us thus? By what superior disposition have they been able to accomplish this? In infantry, as well as cavalry, our army was decidedly superior." To these words, one of those perverse ones who were present, conscious of the state of our army, replied: "My lord, it is not as you think; they have neither horses nor beasts of burden of any kind, except three horses only, which their wonderful king found in Joppa. I think, however, that the king himself could easily be surprised, for he lies almost alone in his tent, and fully worn out with fatigue. Whoever seizes him will at once put an end to our labours and to the whole campaign." It was then given out among the Turks what a reproach it was to them, and lasting scandal,

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