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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 118

awakened by the noise, and leaping startled from his bed, put on his impenetrable coat of mail, and summoned his men to the rescue.

Chapter XXII. - Of the marvellous bravery of the king in this never-to-beforgotten skirmish.

God of all virtues! lives there a man who would not be shaken by such a sudden alarm? The enemy rush unawares, armed against unarmed, many against few, for our men had no time to arm, or even to dress themselves. The king himself therefore, and many others with him, on the urgency of the moment, proceeded without their cuishes to the fight, some even without their breeches, and they armed themselves in the best manner they could, though they were going to fight the whole day. Whilst our men were thus arming in haste, the Turks drew near, and the king mounted his horse, with only ten other knights, whose names are as follows: Count Henry, the earl of Leicester, Bartholomew de Mortimer, Ralph de Mauleon, Andrew de Chavegui, Gerald do Finival, Roger de Sacy, William de l’Etang, Hugh de Villeneuve, a brave retainer, and Henry le Tyois, the king’s standard-bearer. These alone had horses, and some even of those they had were base and impotent horses, unused to arms: the common men were skilfully drawn out in ranks and troops, with each a captain to command them. The knights were posted nearer to the sea, having the church of St. Nicholas on the left, because the Turks had directed their principal attack on that quarter, and the Pisans and Genoese were posted beyond the suburban gardens, having other troops mingled with them. O who could fully relate the terrible attacks of the infidels? The Turks at first rushed on with horrid yells, hurling their javelins and shooting their arrows. Our men prepared themselves as they best could, to receive their furious attack, each fixing his right knee in the ground, that so they might the better hold together, and maintain their position; whilst there, the thighs of their left legs were bent, and their left hands held their shields or bucklers; stretched out before them in their right hands they held their lances, of which the lower ends were fixed in the ground, and their iron heads pointed threateningly towards the enemy. Between every two of the men who were thus covered with their shields, the king, versed in arms, placed an arbalester, and another behind him to stretch the arbalest as quickly as possible, so that the man in front might discharge his shot whilst the other was loading. This was found to be of much benefit to our men, and did much harm to the enemy. Thus every thing was prepared as well as the shortness of the time allowed, and our little army was drawn up in order. The king ran along the ranks, and exhorted every man to be firm and not to flinch. "Courage, my brave men," said he, "and let not the attack of the enemy disturb you. Bear up against the frowns of fortune, and you will rise above them. Every thing maybe borne by brave men; adversity sheds a light upon the virtues of mankind, as certainly as prosperity casts over them a shade; there is no room for flight, for the enemy surround us, and to attempt to flee is to provoke certain death. Be brave, therefore, and let the urgency of the case sharpen up your valour: brave men should either conquer nobly, or gloriously die. Martyrdom is a boon which we should receive with willing mind: but before we die, let us whilst still alive do what may avenge our deaths, giving thanks to God that it has been our lot to die martyrs. This will be the end of our labours, the termination of our life, and of our battles." These words were hardly spoken, when the hostile army rushed with ferocity upon them, in seven troops, each of which contained about a thousand horse. Our men received their attack with their right feet planted firm against the sand, and remained immovable. Their lances formed a wall against the enemy, who would assuredly have broken through, if our men had in the least degree given way. The first line of the Turks, perceiving, as they advanced, that our men stood immovable, recoiled a little, when our cross-bowmen plied them with a shower of missiles, slaying large numbers of men and horses. Another line of Turks at once came on in like manner, and were again encountered and driven back. In this way the Turks came on like a whirlwind, again and again, making the appearance of an attack, that our men might be induced to give way, and when they were close up, they turned their horses off in another direction. The king and his knights, who were on horseback, perceiving this, put spurs to their horses, and charged into the middle of the enemy, upsetting them right and left, and piercing a large number through the body with their lances; at last they pulled up their horses, because they found that they had penetrated entirely through the Turkish lines. The king now looking about him, saw the noble earl of Leicester fallen from his horse, and fighting bravely on foot. No sooner did he see this than he rushed to his rescue, snatched him out of the hands of the enemy, and replaced him on his horse. What a terrible combat was then

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