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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 120

from earth in the long wrestling match. The body of Achilles also, who slew Hector, was invulnerable, because he was dipped in the Stygian waves; yet Achilles was mortally wounded in the very part by which he was held when they dipped him. Likewise Alexander, the Macedonian, who was stimulated by ambition to subjugate the whole world, undertook a most difficult enterprise, and with a handful of choice soldiers fought many celebrated battles, but the chief part of his valour consisted in the excellence of his soldiers. In the same manner, the brave Judas Maccabeus, of whose wars all the world discoursed, performed many wonderful deeds, worthy for ever to be remembered, but when he was abandoned by his soldiers in the midst of a battle, with thousands of enemies to oppose him, he was slain, together with his brothers. But King Richard, inured to battle from his tenderest years, and to whom even famous Roland could not be considered equal, remained invincible, even in the midst of the enemy, and his body, as if it were made of brass, was impenetrable to any kind of weapon. In his right hand he brandished his sword, which in its rapid descent broke the ranks on either side of him. Such was his energy amid that host of Turks, that, fearing nothing, he destroyed all around him, mowing men down with his scythe as reapers mow down the corn with their sickles. Who could describe his deeds? Whoever felt one of his blows, had no need of a second. Such was the energy of his courage, that it seemed to rejoice at having found an occasion to display itself. The sword wielded by his powerful hand, cut down men and horses alike, cleaving them to the middle. The more he saw himself separated from his men, and the more the enemy sought to overwhelm him, the more did his valour shine conspicuous. Among other brave deeds which he performed on that occasion, he slew by one marvellous stroke an admiral, who was conspicuous above the rest of the enemy by his rich caparisons. This man, by his gestures seemed to say that he was going to do something wonderful, and whilst he reproached the rest with cowardice, he put spurs to his horse and charged full against the king, who waving his sword as he saw him coming, smote off at a single blow not only his head, but his shoulder and right arm. The Turks were terror-struck at the sight, and giving way on all sides, scarcely dared to shoot at him from a distance with their arrows. The king now returned safe and unhurt to his friends, and encouraged them more than ever with the hope of victory. How were their minds raised from despair when they saw him coming, safe out of the enemy’s ranks! They knew not what had happened to him, but they knew that without him all the hopes of the Christian army would be in vain. The king’s person was stuck all over with javelins, like a deer pierced by the hunters, and the trappings of his horse were thickly covered with arrows. Thus, like a brave soldier, he returned from the contest, and a bitter contest it was, for it had lasted from the morning sun to the setting sun. It may seem indeed wonderful and even incredible, that so small a body of men endured so long a conflict; but by God’s mercy we cannot doubt the truth of it, for in that battle only one or two of our men were slain. But the number of the Turkish horses which lay dead on the fields is said to have exceeded fifteen hundred; and of the Turks themselves more than seven hundred were killed, and yet they did not carry back King Richard, as they had boasted, as a present to Saladin; but, on the contrary, he and his brave followers performed so many deeds of valour in the sight of the Turks, that the enemy themselves shuddered to behold them.

Chapter XXIV. - How Saladin ridiculed his men for having boasted that thew would seize King Richard, and how they, in self-defence, replied that they had never seen so brave a soldier.

In the meantime, our men having by God’s grace escaped destruction, the Turkish army returned to Saladin, who is said to have ridiculed them by asking where Melech Richard was, for they had promised to bring him a prisoner? "Which of you," continued he, "first seized him, and where is he? Why is he not produced?" To whom one of the Turks that came from the furthest countries of the earth, replied: "In truth, my lord, Melech Richard, about whom you ask, is not here: we have never heard since the beginning of the world that there ever was such a knight, so brave and so experienced in arms. In every deed at arms, he is ever the foremost; in deeds, he is without a rival, the first to advance, and the last to retreat: we did our best to seize him, but in vain, for no one can escape from his sword; his attack is dreadful; to engage with him is fatal, and his deeds are beyond human nature."

Chapter XXV. - How the king was ill from his fatigue and exertions in the battle.

From the toil and exertion of the battle, King Richard and several others who had exerted themselves the most, fell ill, not only from the

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