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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 119

waged! a multitude of Turks advanced, and used every exertion to destroy our small army: vexed at our success, they rushed towards the royal standard of the lion, for they would rather have slain the king than a thousand others. In the midst of the mèlee the king saw Ralph de Mauleon dragged off prisoner by the Turks, and spurring his horse to speed, in a moment released him from their hands, and restored him to the army; for the king was a very giant in the battle, and was everywhere in the field, - now here, now there, wherever the attacks of the Turks raged the hottest. So bravely did he fight, that there was no one, however gallant, that would not readily and deservedly yield to him the pre-eminence. On that day he performed the most gallant deeds on the furious army of the Turks, and slew numbers with his sword, which shone like lightning; some of them were cloven in two from their helmet to their teeth, whilst others lost their heads, arms, and other members, which were lopped off at a single blow. While the king was thus labouring with incredible exertions in the fight, a Turk advanced towards him, mounted on a foaming steed. He had been sent by Saphadin of Archadia, brother to Saladin, a liberal and munificent man, if he had not rejected the Christian faith. This man now sent to the king, as a token of his well-known honourable character, two noble horses, requesting him earnestly to accept them, and make use of them, and if he returned safe and sound out of that battle, to remember the gift and recompense it in any manner he pleased. The king readily received the present, and afterwards nobly recompensed the giver. Such is bravery, cognizable even in an enemy; since a Turk who was our bitter foe, thus honoured the king for his distinguished valour. The king, especially at such a moment of need, protested that he would have taken any number of horses equally good from any one, even more a foe than Saphadin, so necessary were they to him at that moment. Fierce now raged the fight, when such numbers attacked so few: the whole earth was covered with the javelins and arrows of the unbelievers; they threw them several at a time against our men, of whom many were wounded. Thus the weight of the battle fell heavier upon us than before, and the galley-men withdrew in the galleys which brought them, and so in their anxiety to be safe, they sacrificed their character for bravery. Meanwhile a shout was raised by the Turks, as they strove who should first occupy the town, hoping to slay those of our men whom they should find within. The king, hearing the clamour, taking with him only two knights and two cross-bow-men, met three Turks, nobly caparisoned, in one of the principal streets. Rushing bravely upon them, he slew the riders in his own royal fashion, and made booty of two horses. The rest of the Turks who were found in the town, were put to the rout in spite of their resistance, and dispersing in different directions, sought to make their escape even where there was no regular road. The king also commanded the parts of the walls which were broken down to be made good, and placed sentinels to keep watch lest the town should be again attacked.

Chapter XXIII. - Of the wonderful acts of the king in battle, by which, with the Divine aid, he overthrew numbers of the enemy and returned safe out of the midst of them to his own army.

These matters settled, the king went down to the shore, where many of our men had taken refuge on board the galleys. These the king exhorted by the most cogent arguments to return to the battle, and share with the rest whatever might befall them. Leaving five men as guards on board each galley, the king led back the rest to assist his hard-pressed army; and he no sooner arrived, than with all his fury he fell upon the thickest ranks of the enemy, driving them back and routing them, so that even those who were at a distance and untouched by him, were overwhelmed by the throng of the troops as they retreated. Never was there such an attack made by an individual. He pierced into the middle of the hostile army, and performed the deeds of a brave and distinguished warrior. The Turks at once closed upon him and tried to overwhelm him. In the meantime our men, losing sight of the king, were fearful lest he should have been slain, and when one of them proposed that they should advance to find him, our lines could hardly contain themselves. But if by any chance the disposition of our troops had been broken, without doubt they would all have been destroyed. What however was to be thought of the king who was hemmed in by the enemy, a single man opposed to so many thousands? The hand of the writer faints to tell it, and the mind of the reader to hear it. Who ever heard of such a man? His bravery was ever of the highest order, no adverse storm could sink it; his valour was ever blooming, and if we may, from a few instances, judge of many, it was ever indefatigable in war. Why then do we speak of the valour of Antǽus, who regained his strength every time he touched his mother earth, for Antǽus perished when he was lifted up

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