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Geoffrey de Vinsauf
Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
page. 73

 

it was the king’s custom to be the first to go forth to attack and punish them, as far as the divine favour would allow him.

Chapter VIII. - How the count of Hungary and the king’s marshal, having put the Turks to flight who had attacked our men, were captured by them.

It happened one day that our camp was put into commotion by the Turks, who were attacking our men, as was their custom, and making a disturbance. Our men immediately ran to arms, the king and his cavalry went forth, and also the count of Hungary, and very many Hungarians with him, who, having put the Turks to flight, pursued them further than they ought to have done: for some of our men, although they behaved themselves most nobly, were taken captive on the spot and disgracefully treated. The count of Hungary, a man of tried valour and renown, was taken prisoner by the Turks and carried off, as well as a man of Poitou, named Hugh, King Richard’s marshal. The king fought recklessly, careless of his own person, and strove with all his might to rescue Hugh, his marshal; but he was hurried away too rapidly and carried off. Oh how uncertain is the fate of war! Those who were but now victors are often vanquished, and the vanquished becomes as suddenly victor; it was fated for those who had put the enemy to flight to perish themselves, for the pursuers were now captured by the pursued, and that which was ascribed to their glory now proved their folly, and the deed of valour became the cause of danger. In short, the Turks were not loaded with armour like our men; but from their light movements distressed us so much the more severely, for they were for the most part unarmed, carrying only a bow, or a mace, bristling with sharp teeth, a scimitar, a light spear with an iron head, and a dagger suspended lightly; and when put to flight with greater force, they fled away on horseback with the utmost rapidity, for they have not their equals for agility throughout the world; for it is their custom to turn if they see their pursuers stop; - like the fly, which, if you drive it away, will go, but when you cease, it will return; as long as you pursue, it will fly, but it reappears the moment you desist; so likewise the Turks, when you desist from the pursuit they will pursue you; if you attack them, they will fly away: so when the king put them to flight, they fled without stopping; when he was disposed to return, they threatened from the rear, sometimes not with impunity, and sometimes to the injury of our men.

Chapter IX. - How our army, being abandoned to pleasures, could scarcely be forced to quit the city and cross the river of Acre, while the Turks infested them on all sides.

King Richard was resting in his tents, waiting for the army to come out of the city, but they came out slowly and peevishly, as if they did it against their will; and the numbers of the army did not increase, but the city was crowded with an immense multitude. The whole army, including those who were yet in the city, was computed at 300,000 men. The people were too much given up to sloth and luxury, for the city was filled with pleasures, viz. - the choicest wines and fairest damsels, and the men became dissolute by indulging in them; so that the city was defiled by the luxury of the sons of folly and the gluttony of its inhabitants, who made wiser faces blush at their shamelessness; and, in order to blot out this contamination, it was ordained by the council that no woman should quit the city or go with the army, except the washerwomen, on foot, who would not be a burthen to them, nor an occasion for sin. Therefore, on the morning of the aforementioned day, the soldiers armed themselves, and were arranged in becoming order. The king was in the rear of the army to check the Turks, who threatened annoyance; but the duty was a slight one. From the time that impious race saw our army in motion, they poured down from the mountains in scattered bands, like rushing waters, and dispersed themselves in numbers of twenty or thirty, to find out the best opportunity of harassing us. For they were exceedingly grieved at the deaths of their parents and kinsmen, whose slaughtered bodies they saw strewn about as aforesaid: and they therefore pressed upon our army continuously, and harassed it as much as they could. But, with the assistance of the Divine Grace, the Turks succeeded not as they wished; for our army passed over the river of Acre unhurt, and again pitched their tents on the other side the stream until on Friday, being the vigil of St. Bartholomew, they were all assembled together; and on the following Monday, two years had elapsed since the Christians first laid siege to Acre.

Chapter X. - How our army, departing from the city in battle array, boldly repulsed the Turks, who attacked them in force: the standard is here described.

On the morrow, therefore, of St. Bartholomew, being Sunday, the army was drawn up, early in the morning, to advance along the sea-coast, in the name of the Lord. Oh! what fine soldiers they were! You might there see a chosen company of virtuous and brave youth, whose equals it would

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