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Geoffrey de Vinsauf
Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
purpose to disclose the scenes of blood, robbery, and adultery, which disgraced them, for this work of mine is a history of deeds and not a moral treatise: but when the ancient enemy had diffused, far and near, the spirit of corruption, he more especially took possession of the land of Syria, so that other nations now drew an example of uncleanness from the same source which formerly had supplied them with the elements of religion. For this cause, therefore, the Lord seeing that the land of his birth and place of his passion had sunk into an abyss of turpitude, treated with neglect his inheritance, and suffered Saladin, the rod of his wrath, to put forth his fury to the destruction of that stiff-necked people; for he would rather that the Holy Land should, for a short time, be subject to the profane rites of the heathen, than that it should any longer be possessed by those men, whom no regard for what is right could deter from things unlawful. The approach of future destruction was foretold by divers events: famine, earthquakes, and frequent eclipses, both of the sun and of the moon. And that strong wind also, which astronomers prophesied would spring out of the
conjunction of the planets, became changed to the signification of this event. It was a mighty wind indeed; it shook the four cardinal points of the earth, and foreshewed that the whole of the globe was about to be stirred up to troubles and wars.
Chapter II. - How Saladin invaded Palestine.
Saladin, therefore, having assembled his bands of warriors, violently assailed Palestine, and sent forward Manafaradin, admiral of Edessa, with 7,000 Turks, to ravage the Holy Land. This man, when he had marched as far as the parts about Tiberias, was there encountered by Gerard de Riddeford, master of the Templars,(2) and Roger de Moulins, master of the Hospital; one of whom they routed and put to flight, and slew the other in a sudden attack. In this battle a few of our soldiers were cut off and surrounded by an immense multitude, which led to an achievement of distinction which deserves to be recorded. A certain knight of the Temple, by birth a German, named Jakeline de Maill., by his extraordinary valour provoked the enemy to turn all their attacks on him. His fellow-soldiers, who were estimated about 500 in number, were all either taken or slain, and he alone sustained the weight of the whole battle, - a glorious champion for God’s law! At length, hemmed in by the enemy’s troops, and destitute of all human aid, seeing so many thousands rushing upon him on every side, he gathered up his whole courage for an effort, and bravely faced the foe alone. His valour attracted the admiration of his enemies; they were filled with compassion for him, and called earnestly to him to surrender. He, however, turning a deaf ear to their exhortations, was not afraid to die for Christ, but overwhelmed with the load of javelins, stones, and lances, rather than vanquished, he at length was with difficulty slain
(2)There is some doubt whether the grand master of the Templars at this time was named Riddeford or Biddeford. The readings of the MSS. vary between Riddeford, Biddeford, and Tiddeford, but probability seems to be in favour of the first.
After the battle, Roger de Moulins was found dead among a heap of Turks and Saracens whom he had slain with his own hand. Jacqueline de Maill. was the marshal of the Temple.
6 and his soul fled triumphant, bearing the palm of martyrdom, to the heavenly kingdom. His death indeed was rendered glorious, since by his single sword so large a circle of dead bodies had been heaped around him. It was sweet for a man to die thus, himself in the centre, surrounded by the unbelievers whom his brave arm had slaughtered. [And inasmuch as he rode on a white horse and fought that day in white armour, the idolaters who know St. Gregory to have fought in such costume, boasted that they had slain the knight of the white armour, who was the bulwark of the Christians.(3)] There was, in the place of this conflict, some stubble which the reaper had left after the ears had been cut off a short time before, but the Turks had rushed over it in such multitudes, and this single champion had held out so long against them, that the field in which they stood was wholly trampled to dust, and showed no signs of a crop of corn ever having grown there. It is said, there were some who sprinkled the limbs of the dead man with dust, which they afterwards placed on their own heads, believing that they derived force from the contact; and one man, as is said, more ardent than the rest, cut off certain members of the man, and kept them for his own use, that even though dead they might perchance produce a successor to such distinguished valour.
(3) This passage is omitted in some and is very likely to be spurious. May we not read St. George instead of St. Gregory?
Chapter III. - Of the origin of Saladin. At this victory Saladin rejoiced greatly; and fired with the ambition of gaining the kingdom turned his thoughts to still greater deeds. But that future ages may know more of this persecutor of the Christian name, I will premise a few particulars of his origin, as far as the brevity at which I aim will allow. He was of the race of the Mirmurǽni, the son of parents who were not noble, though not a plebeian of obscure birth.
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