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Geoffrey de Vinsauf
Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
page. 83

 

disgrace to our nation, the most warlike in the world, thus to become as nothing in comparison with their glorious ancestors." The admirals held down their heads at these words; but one of them, named Sanscuns, of Aleppo, returned this answer: "Most sacred Sultan, saving your majesty, this charge is unjust, for we fought with all our strength against the Franks, and did our best to destroy them: we met their fiercest attacks, but it was of no avail; they are armed in impenetrable armour which no weapon can pierce, so that all our blows fell as it were upon a rock of flint. And, further, there is one among their number superior to any man we have ever seen: he always charges before the rest, slaying and destroying our men: he is the first in every enterprise, and is a most brave and excellent soldier; no one can resist him or escape out of his hands: they call him Melech Ric.(19) Such a king as he seems born to command the whole earth: what then could we do more against so formidable, an enemy?"

Chapter XXIII. - How Saladin destroyed all the fortresses except Jerusalem, Crach, and Darum. Saladin, in the heat of his indignation, called to him his brother Saphadin.

"It is my wish," said he, "to try what reliance can be placed on my men in this extremity: go and destroy without delay the walls of Ascalon and Guadres, but deliver Darum into the custody of my people, to insure safety to those who pass that way. But destroy also Galatia, Blancheward, Joppa, the castles of Plans, Maen, St. George, Ramula, Belmont, Toron, the castle of Ernald, Beauverie, and Mirabel: destroy, in short, all the mountain fortresses; spare neither city, castle, nor fort, except Crach and Jerusalem." Saphadin obeyed these commands, and destroyed all these fortresses without delay.

(19)King Richard

Chapter XXIV. - The Turks with 15,000 men attack our men on the river Arsur, but without success. Meanwhile, a powerful Saracen prince, named Caysac, urged Saladin to send scouts into the plains of Ramula to reconnoitre the movements of the Franks.

"For I hope," added he, "if I have stanch troops, to be able to cut off the greater part of them, and to draw them into the narrow passes, that few of them shall be able to escape us." By his advice, Saladin ordered thirty of his principal admirals, each at the head of five hundred men, to occupy the banks of the river Arsur. Here, therefore, they kept guard, to prevent the Franks from passing. On Monday, the morrow of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, and the third day after the battle before mentioned, King Richard marched with his army to the Arsur. The Templars were in the rear, and marched with much order and circumspection, to guard against sudden attacks of the enemy; but they reached the river without opposition. The Turks now, having kept close in their ambuscade, when the Christians came up, assailed the foremost of them with their javelins and arrows, but failing of success, retreated, and our men encamped that night on the Arsur. In the morning our infantry, who could hardly maintain the march, advanced with the quarter-masters to Joppa, which they found so entirely dismantled, that the army could not find lodgings in it. They therefore encamped in an olive-garden on the left side of the town, about three weeks after they left Acre.

Chapter XXV. - How our ships brought us provisions from Acre to Joppa.

The army remained outside the walls of Joppa, and refreshed themselves with abundance of fruits, figs, grapes, pomegranates, and citrons, produced by the country round: when lo! the fleet of King Richard, with other vessels, which accompanied the army and went to and fro between Joppa and Acre, brought us necessaries, much to the annoyance of the Turks, because they could not prevent them.

Chapter XXVI. - How King Richard advised to save Ascalon from the Turks, who were dismantling it; but by the sinister counsels of the French they preferred to repair to Joppa, and indulged themselves there in vice and luxury.

Saladin, meanwhile, had destroyed the walls of Ascalon. This intelligence was brought by some common soldiers, who escaped, whilst it was in progress; but our people could hardly believe that Saladin had done this in despair, as if so powerful a prince could not or did not dare defend them. To ascertain the truth, King Richard, by advice of his nobles, sent Geoffrey de Lusignan, William de Stagno, and others, in a strong galley to sail to Ascalon, and bring back word how matters stood. This commission they faithfully discharged, and reported that all they had heard was true. King Richard, therefore, and his nobles now deliberated whether they should march to save Ascalon, or proceed at once to Jerusalem: many opinions were given, and the king gave his own, in the presence of the duke of Burgundy and others, in these words: "It seems to me," said he, "that our difference of opinion may be not only useless, but dangerous to

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