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Geoffrey de Vinsauf
Itinerary of Richard I and others to the Holy Land
passage of the Turks in those parts. When the decision became known the army were much dejected, conceiving that their hopes of seeing the Lord’s sepulchre would altogether be frustrated. Their former hilarity altogether disappeared, and was succeeded by despair at what they had just heard. They uttered imprecations on the authors of this counsel as destroyers of all their most ardent wishes. If, however, they had known the penury and destitution of those who dwelt in Jerusalem, they would have derived some little consolation from the tribulation of the enemy. For the Turks in Jerusalem were enduring many severe sufferings from the hail and snow, which, melting in the mountains, caused a flood of water to descend upon the city, either drowning their cattle, or causing them to perish afterwards from the cold. So great were their sufferings from the state of the weather, that if the Christians had known of them they might certainly have taken the city; though they could not long have kept it, for the people would have returned home after fulfilling their vow of pilgrimage, and there could not have been a sufficient garrison left to defend it.
Chapter II. - Of the despondency of the army at the abandonment of their enterprise, and of their return to Ramula.
The feast of St. Hilary was now at hand, and so great was the disaffection and sorrow of the army that many of them abandoned their pilgrimage, cursing the day in which they were born to suffer such a disappointment. Some of them also were so worn down by their sufferings and by want, that they with difficulty could bear up against it. Their horses and beasts of burden, also, affected by the cold and rain, were unable to proceed through the mud, but fell famished and knocked up beneath their loads. The drivers, in bitterness of spirit, raised their hands in anguish to heaven, and uttered imprecations approaching even to blasphemy. It was impossible to conceive a severer lot, even in the worst of criminals, than that which our men now suffered. Their brave deeds, their prowess in war, were now succeeded by grief and despair of mind, in addition to their bodily sufferings; and whilst all were in this state, the weak and sick would have been in danger of perishing, if it had not been for the care of King Richard, who sent out messengers on all sides to collect them together and bring them to Ramula, where the whole army soon assembled, not long after they had left it.
Chapter III. - Of the tribulation and anguish which our men endured between Ramula and Ascalon, from the dangers of the roads and the state of the weather, and how many of the French left the army.
Whilst our men remained at Ramula, many of them, either to avoid the painful march, or from indignation and obstinacy, deserted from the army, thereby considerably diminishing its numbers. The greater part of the French departed out of indignation; some of them went to enjoy their ease at Joppa, others retired to Acre, where there was plenty of provisions. Some joined the marquis at Tyre, as he had often urged them to do, others, with the duke of Burgundy, from anger and indignation turned aside to the fort des Plans, where they remained eight days. King Richard, angry at the situation in which things were, proceeded with his nephew, Henry Count of Champagne, and the army thus reduced in its numbers, towards Ibelin; but they found the roads so muddy that it was necessary to halt there, that the army might have rest; for their misery, both mental and bodily, was so
great that no pen can write, nor tongue tell it. At dawn of day the men with the tents were sent forwards, and the rest of the army followed; the sufferings of the day before were nothing to those which they now endured from fatigue, rain, hail, and floods, so that it might be thought all heaven had conspired to destroy them. The ground, too, was muddy and soft beneath them, and the horses and men had the greatest difficulty to maintain their footing: some of them sunk, never to rise again. Who can tell the calamities of that day? The bravest of the soldiers shed tears like rain, and were wearied even of their very existence for the severity of their sufferings. When the beasts of burden fell, the provisions which they carried were either spoiled by the mud, or dissolved in the water. In this manner, cursing the day on which they were born, and beating their breasts with their hands, they reached Ascalon, which they found so dismantled by the Saracens that they could scarcely enter through its gates for the heaps of stones. This day was the of January, and they encamped for the night, every man as well as he was able.
Chapter IV. - How the army suffered at Ascalon from the weather and want of provisions.
The city of Ascalon lies on the coast of the Grecian sea, and, if it had a good harbour, could hardly find an equal for its situation and the fertility of the adjoining country. It has indeed a port, but one so difficult of access, owing to the stormy weather in which the army reached it, that for eight
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