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Geoffrey de Vinsauf
Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
page. 75

 

baggage and provisions; so that in the aforesaid battle they suffered much from fatigue and thirst.

Chapter XII. - How our army kept along the maritime parts, where they were wounded by the underwood, and met with wild beasts; and how they left Cayphas by way of Capernaum, and reached the passes.

On a Wednesday, which was the third day after stopping at Cayphas, the army moved forward in order, the Templars leading the van, and the Hospitallers closing the rear, both of whom by their high bearing gave evidence of great valour. That day the army moved forward with more than wonted caution, and stopped after a long march, impeded by the thickets and the tall and luxuriant herbage, which struck them in the face, especially the foot-soldiers. In these maritime parts there were also numbers of beasts of the forest, who leapt up between their feet from the long grass and thick copses, and many were caught, not by design, but coming in their way by chance. When the king had proceeded as far as Capernaum, which the Saracens had razed to the ground, he dismounted, and took some food, the army, meanwhile, waiting; those who chose took food, and immediately after proceeded on their march to the house called "of the narrow ways," because the road there becomes narrow; there they halted and pitched their tents. It was the custom of the army each night before lying down to rest, to depute some one to stand in the middle of the camp, and cry out with a loud voice, "Help! help! for the holy sepulchre!" The rest of the army took it up, and repeated the words; and stretching their hands to heaven, amid a profusion of tears, prayed for the mercy and assistance of God in the cause. Then the herald himself repeated the words in a loud voice, "Help! help! for the holy sepulchre!" and every one repeated it after him a second time, and so likewise a third time, with contrition of heart and abundant weeping. For who would not weep at such a moment, when the very mention of its having been done would extract tears from the auditors? The army appeared to be much refreshed by crying out in this fashion.

Chapter XIII. - How the tarrentes afflicted our people with their venomous stings.

As each night came round, a sort of reptile attacked us, commonly called tarrentes, which creep on the ground, and have most venomous stings. As the day comes on, they are harmless; but on the approach of night, they used their stings most pertinaciously, and those they stung were instantly swelled with the venom, and tortured with pain. The more noble and wealthy of those who were attacked applied theriacal ointment on the stings, and the antidote proved efficacious to remove the pain. At last, the more observant, perceiving that the reptiles were frightened away by loud sounds, raised a great noise at their approach by beating and clashing their helmets and shields together; also by beating against their seats, poles, casks, flagons, basins, platters, caldrons, and whatever household ware they could lay hands on to make a sufficient sound; and by these sounds they drove away the reptiles. The army remained two days at the abovementioned station, where there was plenty of room for their camp, and waited there until the ships arrived which they were expecting; namely, barges and galleys, laden with provisions, of which they were in need; for these vessels were sailing in connection with the army along the shore, and carried their provisions an board.

Chapter XIV. - How our men marched from the house of the narrow ways to Merla, and thence to Cǽsarea and the Dead River.

The Turks attacking them, were defeated. The army advanced, using all precaution against the Turks, who kept on their flank, to a town called Merla, where the king had spent one of the previous nights: there he had determined that he would lead the van himself the next day, on account of the obstacles in the way, and because the Templars kept guard in the rear; for the Turks continually threatened them in a body on the flank. On that day the king, putting spurs to his horse, charged them furiously, and would have reaped great glory, had it not been for the backwardness of some, which retarded his success; for, when King Richard pursued the Turks to a distance, some of his men suddenly halted, for which they were rebuked in the evening. If the king’s companions had followed up their pursuit of the Turks, they would have gained a splendid victory; for the king drove all before him. The army had a very difficult march along the sea-shore on account of the great heat; for it was summer time, and they marched a long day’s journey. Many of them, overcome by the fatigue of the march, dropped down dead, and were buried where they died; but the king, from compassion, caused many to be transported in galleys and ships, when they were overcome by the fatigue of the march or sickness, or any other cause, to their destination.

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