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Chapter 33



THE Crusades were the mightiest or rather the most ambitious
undertaking of the chivalry of Europe. From the year 1096 for more
than a century the knights of all countries looked to the Holy Land as
a field for winning their spurs and obtaining pardon of their sins.
And it is most natural that in giving a picture of English chivalry as
it is shown in history that we should give a description of King
Richard's exploits in Palestine.
In the last decade of the twelfth century Richard I. of England took
the cross, which had come to him as a sort of legacy from his
father, and sailed for Antioch, which was being besieged by the
Christians, to assist in the war in the Holy Land. At the same time
Philip Augustus of France and Frederick Barbarossa joined the
Crusaders. Frederick was drowned in a river of Cilicia, and his
force had so dwindled that when they reached Antioch hardly a tenth of
the number were left that had started. Philip of France reached
Antioch with his army, and there, as we shall learn later, he fought
with the Turk and quarrelled with the Christian for a time, until he
finally set sail for France without having accomplished the capture of
the Holy City. As for Richard, he was not more successful, and
although his deeds were so glorious as to cover him with honor, he was
obliged to return home, leaving Jerusalem still in the hands of


Now as the ships were proceeding, some being before others, two of
the three first, driven by the violence of the winds, were broken on
the rocks near the port of Cyprus the third, which was English, more
speedy than they, having turned back into the deep, escaped the peril.
Almost all the men of both ships got away alive to land, many of
whom the hostile Cypriotes slew, some they took captive, some,
taking refuge in a certain church, were besieged. Whatever also in the
ships was cast up by the sea fell a prey to the Cypriotes. The
prince also of that island coming up, received for his share the
gold and the arms; and he caused the shore to be guarded by all the
armed force he could summon together, that he might not permit the
fleet which followed to approach, lest the king should take again what
had been thus stolen from him. Above the port was a strong city, and
upon a natural rock, a high and fortified castle. The whole of that
nation was warlike and accustomed to live by theft. They placed
beams and planks at the entrance of the port, across the passage,
the gates, and entrances; and the whole land with one mind prepared
themselves for a conflict with the English. God so willed that the
cursed people should receive the reward of their evil deeds by the
hands of one who would not spare. The third English ship, in which
were the women, having cast out their anchors, rode out at sea, and
watched all things from opposite, to report the misfortunes to the
king,* lest haply, being ignorant of the loss and disgrace, he
should pass the place unavenged. The next line of the king's ships
came up after the other, and they are stopped at the first. A full
report reached the king, who, sending heralds to the lord of the
island, and obtaining no satisfaction, commanded his entire army to
arm, from the first even to the last, and to get out of the great
ships into the galleys and boats, and follow him to the shore. What he
commanded was immediately performed; they came in arms to the port.
The king being armed, leaped first from the galley, and gave the first
blow in the war; but before he was able to strike a second he had
three thousand of his followers with him striking away at his side.
All the timber that had been placed as a barricade in the port was
cast down instantly, and the brave fellows went up into, the city as
ferocious as lionesses are wont to be when robbed of their young.
The fight was carried on manfully against them, numbers fell wounded
on both sides, and the swords of both parties were made drunk with
blood. The Cypriotes are vanquished, the city is taken, with the
castle besides; whatever the victors choose is ransacked; and the lord
of the island is himself taken and brought to the king. He being
taken, supplicates and obtains pardon; he offers homage to the king,
and it is received; and he swears, though unasked, that henceforth
be will hold the island of him as his liege lord, and will open all
the castles of the land to him, and make satisfaction for the damage
already done; and further bring presents of his own. On being
dismissed after the oath, he is commanded to fulfil, the conditions in
the morning.

* Richard I. of England.

That night the king remained peaceably in the castle; and his
newly-sworn vassal, flying, retired to another castle, and caused
the whole of the men of the land, who were able to bear arms, to be
summoned to repair to him, and so they did. The king of Jerusalem,
however, that same night landed in Cyprus, that he might assist the
king and salute him, whose arrival he had desired above that of any
other in the whole world. On the morrow the lord of Cyprus was
sought for and found to have fled. The king seeing that he was abused,
and having been informed where he was, directed the king of
Jerusalem to follow the traitor by land with the best of the army,
while he conducted the other part by water, intending to be in the way
that he might not escape by sea. The divisions reassembled around
the city in which he had taken refuge, and he, having sallied out
against the king, fought with the English, and the battle was
carried on sharply by both sides. The English would that day have been
beaten had they not fought under the command of King Richard. They
at length obtained a dear-bought victory, the Cypriote flies, and
the castle is taken. The kings pursue him as before, the one by land
and the other by water, and he is besieged in the third castle. Its
walls are cast down by engines hurling huge stones; he, being
overcome, promises to surrender, if only he might not be put in iron
fetters. The king consents to the prayers of the supplicant, and
caused silver shackles to be made for him. The prince of the pirates
being thus taken, the king traversed the whole island, and took all
its castles, and placed his constables in each, and constituted
justiciaries and sheriffs, and the whole land was subjected to him
in everything just like England. The gold, and the silks and the
jewels from the treasuries that were broken open, he retained for
himself; the silver and victuals he gave to the army. To the king of
Jerusalem also he made a handsome present out of the booty.
The king proceeding thence, came to the siege of Acre, and was
welcomed by the besiegers with as great a joy as if it had been Christ
that had come again on earth to restore the kingdom of Israel. The
king of the French had arrived at Acre first, and was very highly
esteemed by the natives; but on Richard's arrival he became obscured
and without consideration, just as the moon is wont to relinquish
her lustre at the rising of the sun.
The king of the English, unused to delay, on the third day of his
arrival at the siege, caused his wooden fortress, which he had
called "Mate Grifun," when it was made in Sicily, to be built and
set up, and before the dawn of the fourth day the machine stood
erect by the walls of Acre, and from its height looked down upon the
city lying beneath it; and there were thereon by sunrise archers
casting missiles without intermission on the Turks and Thracians.
Engines also for casting stones, placed in convenient positions,
battered the walls with frequent volleys. More important than these,
the sappers, making themselves a way beneath the ground, undermined
the foundations of the walls; while soldiers, bearing shields,
having planted ladders, sought an entrance over the ramparts. The king
himself was running up and down through the ranks, directing some,
reproving some, and urging others, and thus was he everywhere
present with every one of them, so that whatever they all did ought
properly to be ascribed to him. The king of the French also did not
lightly assail them, making as bold an assault as he could on the
tower of the city which is called Cursed.
The renowned Carracois and Mestocus, after Saladin, the most
powerful princes of the heathen, had at that time the charge of the
besieged city, who, after a contest of many days, promised by their
interpreters the surrender of the city, and a ransom for their
heads; but the king of the English desired to subdue their obstinacy
by force; and wished that the vanquished should pay their heads for
the ransom of their bodies, but by the mediation of the king of the
French their life and indemnity of limbs only was accorded, if,
after the surrender of the city and yielding of everything they
possessed, the Holy Cross should be given up.
All the heathen warriors in Acre were chosen men, and were in number
nine thousand; many of whom, swallowing many gold coins, made a
purse of their stomachs, because they foresaw that whatever they had
of any value would be turned against them, even against themselves, if
they should again oppose the cross, and would only fall a prey to
the victors. So all of them came out before the kings entirely
disarmed, and outside the city, without money, were given into
custody; and the kings, with triumphal banners, having entered the
city, divided the whole with all its stores into two parts between
themselves and their soldiers; the pontiff's seat alone its bishop
received by their united gift. The captives, being divided, Mestocus
fell by lot to the portion of the king of the English, and
Carracois, as a drop of cold water, fell into the mouth of the thirsty
Philip, king of the French.
Messengers on the part of the captives having been sent to Saladin
for their ransom, when the heathen could by no entreaty be moved to
restore the Holy Cross, the king of the English beheaded all his, with
the exception of Mestocus only, who on account of his nobility was
spared, and declared openly, without any ceremony, that he would act
in the same way toward Saladin himself.
The king of the English, then, having sent for the commanders of the
French, proposed that in the first place they should conjointly
attempt Jerusalem itself; but the dissuasion of the French discouraged
the hearts of both parties, dispirited the troops, and restrained
the king, thus destitute of men, from his intended march on that
metropolis. The king, troubled at this, though not despairing, from
that day forth separated his army from the French, and directing his
arms to the storming of castles along the seashore, he took every
fortress that came in his way from Tyre to Ascalon, though after
hard fighting and deep wounds.*

* The preceding narrative is taken from the Chronicle of Richard
of Devizes. What follows is from the Chronicle of Geoffrey de Vinsauf.

On the Saturday, the eve of the Nativity of the blessed Virgin Mary,
at earliest dawn, our men armed themselves with great care to
receive the Turks, who were known to have preceded their march, and
whose insolence nothing but a battle could check. The enemy had ranged
themselves in order, drawing gradually nearer and nearer; and our
men also took the utmost care to place themselves in as good order
as possible. King Richard, who was most experienced in military
affairs, arranged the army in squadrons, and directed who should march
in front and who in the rear. He divided the army into twelve
companies, and these again into five divisions, marshalled according
as the men ranked in military discipline; and none could be found more
warlike, if they had only had confidence in God, who is the giver of
all good things. On that day the Templars formed the first rank, and
after them came, in due order, the Bretons and men of Anjou; then
followed King Guy, with the men of Pictou; and in the fourth line were
the Normans and English, who had the care of the royal standard, and
last of all marched the Hospitallers: this line was composed of chosen
warriors, divided into companies. They kept together so closely that
an apple, if thrown, would not have fallen to the ground without
touching a man or a horse; and the army stretched from the army of
Saracens to the seashore. There you might have seen their most
appropriate distinctions,- standards, and ensigns of various forms,
and hardy soldiers, fresh and full of spirits, and well fitted for
war. Henry, Count of Champagne, kept guard on the mountain side, and
maintained a constant lookout on the flank; the foot-soldiers, bowmen,
and arbalesters were on the outside, and the rear of the army was
closed by the post horses and wagons, which carried provisions and
other things, and journeyed along between the army and the sea, to
avoid an attack from the enemy.
This was the order of the army, as it advanced gradually, to prevent
separation; for the less close the line of battle, the less
effective was it for resistance. King Richard and the Duke of
Burgundy, with a chosen retinue of warriors, rode up and down,
narrowly watching the position and manner of the Turks, to correct
anything in their own troops, if they saw occasion, for they had need,
at that moment, of the utmost circumspection.
It was now nearly nine o'clock, when there appeared a large body
of the Turks, ten thousand strong, coming down upon us at full charge,
and throwing darts and arrows as far as they could, while they mingled
their voices in one horrible yell. There followed after them an
infernal race of men, of black color, and bearing a suitable
appellation, expressive of their blackness. With them also were the
Saracens, who live in the desert, called Bedouins; they are a savage
race of men, blacker than soot; they fight on foot, and carry a bow,
quiver, and round shield, and are a light and active race. These men
dauntlessly attacked our army. Beyond these might be seen the
well-arranged phalanxes of the Turks, with ensigns fixed to their
lances, and standards and banners of separate distinctions. Their army
was divided into troops, and the troops into companies, and their
numbers seemed to exceed twenty thousand. They came on with
irresistible charge, on horses swifter than eagles, and urged on
like lightning to attack our men; and as they advanced they raised a
cloud of dust, so that the air was darkened. In front came certain
of their admirals, as it was their duty, with clarions and trumpets;
some had horns, others had pipes and timbrels, gongs, cymbals, and
other instruments, producing a horrible noise and clamor. The earth
vibrated from the loud and discordant sounds, so that the crash of
thunder could not be heard amidst the tumultuous noise of horns and
trumpets. They did this to excite their spirit and courage, for the
more violent their clamor became, the more bold were they for the
fray. Thus the impious Turks threatened us, both on the side towards
the sea and from the side of the land; and for the space of two
miles not so much earth as could be taken up in one hand could be
seen, on account of the hostile Turks who covered it. Oh, how
obstinately they pressed on, and continued their stubborn attacks,
so that our men suffered severe loss of their horses, which were
killed by their darts and arrows. Oh, how useful to us on that day
were our arbalesters and bowmen, who closed the extremities of the
lines, and did their best to repel the obstinate Turks.
The enemy came rushing down, like a torrent, to the attack; and many
of our arbalesters, unable to restrain the weight of their terrible
and calamitous charge, threw away their arms, and, fearing lest they
should be shut out, took refuge, in crowds, behind the dense lines
of the army; yielding through fear of death to sufferings which they
could not support. Those whom shame forbade to yield, or the hope of
an immortal crown sustained, were animated with greater boldness and
courage to persevere in the contest, and fought with indefatigable
valor face to face against the Turks, whilst they at the same time
receded step by step, and so reached their retreat. The whole of
that day, on account of the Turks pressing them closely from behind,
they faced around and went on skirmishing, rather than proceeding on
their march.
Oh, how great was the strait they were in on that day! how great was
their tribulation! when some were affected with fears, and no one
had such confidence or spirit as not to wish, at that moment, he had
finished his pilgrimage, and, had returned home, instead of standing
with trembling heart the chances of a doubtful battle. In truth our
people, so few in number, were so hemmed in by the multitudes of the
Saracens, that they had no means of escape, if they tried; neither did
they seem to have valor sufficient to withstand so many foes,- nay,
they were shut in like a flock of sheep in the jaws of wolves, with
nothing but the sky above, and the enemy all around them. O Lord
God! what feelings agitated that weak flock of Christ! straitened by
such a perplexity, whom the enemy pressed with such unabating vigor,
as if they would pass them through a sieve. What army was ever
assailed by so mighty a force? There you might have seen our troopers,
having lost their chargers, marching on foot with the footmen, or
casting missiles from the arbalests, or arrows from bows, against
the enemy, and repelling their attacks in the best manner they were
able. The Turks, skilled in the bow, pressed unceasingly upon them; it
rained darts; the air was filled with the shower of arrows, and the
brightness of the sun was obscured by the multitude of missiles, as if
it had been darkened by a fall of winter's hail or snow. Our horses
were pierced by the darts and arrows, which were so numerous that
the whole face of the earth around was covered with them, and if any
one wished to gather them up, he might take twenty of them in his hand
at a time.
The Turks pressed with such boldness that they nearly crushed the
Hospitallers; on which the latter sent word to King Richard that
they could not withstand the violence of the enemy's attack, unless he
would allow their knights to advance at full charge against them. This
the king dissuaded them from doing, but advised them to keep in a
close body; they therefore persevered and kept together, though
scarcely able to breathe for the pressure. By these means they were
able to proceed on their way, though the heat happened to be very
great on that day; so that they labored under two disadvantages,-
the hot weather and the attacks of the enemy. These approved martyrs
of Christ sweated in the contest; and he who could have seen them
closed up in a narrow space, so patient under the heat and toil of the
day and the attacks of the enemy, who exhorted each other to destroy
the Christians, could not doubt in his mind that it augured ill to our
success from their straitened and perilous position, hemmed in as they
were by so large a multitude; for the enemy thundered at their backs
as if with mallets, so that, having no room to use their bows, they
fought hand to hand with swords, lances, and clubs, and the blows of
the Turks, echoing from their metal armor, resounded as if they had
been struck upon an anvil. They were now tormented with the heat,
and no rest was allowed them. The battle fell heavy on the extreme
line of the Hospitallers, the more so as they were unable to resist,
but moved forward with patience under their wounds, returning not even
a word for the blows which fell upon them, and advancing on their
way because they were not able to bear the weight of the contest.
Then they pressed on for safety upon the centre of the army which
was in front of them, to avoid the fury of the enemy who harassed them
in the rear. Was it wonderful that no one could withstand so
continuous an attack, when he could not even return a blow to the
numbers who pressed on him? The strength of all Paganism had
gathered together from Damascus and Persia, from the Mediterranean
to the East; there was not left in the uttermost recesses of the earth
one man of fame or power, one nation's valor, or one bold soldier,
whom the sultan had not summoned to his aid, either by entreaty, by
money, or by authority, to crush the Christian race; for he presumed
to hope he could blot them from the face of the earth; but his hopes
were vain, for their numbers were sufficient, through the assistance
of God, to effect their purpose. The flower of the chosen youth and
soldiers of Christendom had indeed assembled together, and were united
in one body, like ears of corn on their stalks, from every region of
the earth; and if they had been utterly destroyed, there is no doubt
that there were some left to make resistance.
A cloud of dust obscured the air as our men marched on; and, in
addition to the heat, they had an enemy pressing them in the rear,
insolent, and rendered obstinate by the instigation of the devil.
Still the Christians proved good men, and secure in their
unconquerable spirit, kept constantly advancing, while the Turks
threatened them without ceasing in the rear; but their blows fell
harmless upon the defensive armor, and this caused the Turks to
slacken in courage at the failure of their attempts, and they began to
murmur in whispers of disappointment, crying out in their rage,
"that our people were made of iron and would yield to no blow." Then
the Turks, about twenty thousand strong, rushed again upon our men
pell-mell, annoying them in every possible manner; when, as if
overcome by their savage fury, brother Garnier de Napes, one of the
Hospitallers, suddenly exclaimed with a loud voice, "O excellent St.
George! will you leave us to be thus put to confusion? The whole of
Christendom is now on the point of perishing, because it fears to
return a blow against this impious race."
Upon this the master of the Hospitallers went to the king, and
said to him, "My lord the king, we are violently pressed by the enemy,
and are in danger of eternal infamy, as if we did not dare to return
their blows; we are each of us losing our horses one after another,
and why should we bear with them any further?" To whom the king
replied, "Good master, it is you who must sustain their attack; no one
can be everywhere at once." On the master returning, the Turks again
made a fierce attack on them from the rear, and there was not a prince
or count amongst them but blushed with shame, and they said to each
other, "Why do we not charge them at full gallop? Alas! alas! we shall
forever deserve to be called cowards, a thing which never happened
to us before, for never has such a disgrace befallen so great an army,
even from unbelievers. Unless we defend ourselves by immediately
charging the enemy we shall gain everlasting scandal, and so much
the greater the longer we delay to fight." O, how blind is human fate!
On what slippery points it stands! Alas, on how uncertain wheels
doth it advance, and with what ambiguous success doth it unfold the
course of human things! A countless multitude of the Turks would
have perished if the aforesaid attempt had been orderly conducted; but
to punish us for our sins, as it is believed, the potter's ware
produces a paltry vessel instead of the grand design which he had
conceived. For when they were treating on this point, and had come
to the same decision about charging the enemy, two knights, who were
impatient of delay, put everything in confusion. It had been
resolved by common consent that the sounding of six trumpets in
three different parts of the army should be a signal for a charge,
viz., two in front, two in the rear, and two in the middle, to
distinguish the sounds from those of the Saracens, and to mark the
distance of each. If these orders had been attended to, the Turks
would have been utterly discomfited; but from the too great haste of
the aforesaid knights the success of the affair was marred.
They rushed at full gallop upon the Turks, and each of them
prostrated his man by piercing him through with his lance. One of them
was the marshal of the Hospitallers, the other was Baldwin de
Carreo, a good and brave man, and the companion of King Richard, who
had brought him in his retinue. When the other Christians observed
these two rushing forward, and heard them calling with a clear voice
on St. George for aid, they charged the Turks in a body with all their
strength; then the Hospitallers, who had been distressed all day by
their close array, following the two soldiers, charged the enemy in
troops, so that the van of the army became the rear from their
position in the attack, and the Hospitallers, who had been the last,
were the first to charge.
The Count of Champagne also burst forward with his chosen company,
and James d'Avennes with his kinsmen, and also Robert Count of
Dreux, the bishop of Beauvais and his brother, as well as the Earl
of Leicester, who made a fierce charge on the left towards the sea.
Why need we name each? Those who were in the first line of the rear
made a united and furious charge; after them the men of Poictou, the
Bretons, and the men of Anjou, rushed swiftly onward, and then came
the rest of the army in a body: each troop showed its valor, and
boldly closed with the Turks, transfixing them with their lances,
and casting them to the ground. The sky grew black with the dust
that was raised in the confusion of that encounter. The Turks, who had
purposely dismounted from their horses in order to take better aim
at our men with their darts and arrows, were slain on all sides in
that charge, for on being prostrated by the horse-soldiers they were
beheaded by the foot-men. King Richard, on seeing his army in motion
and in encounter with the Turks, flew rapidly on his horse at full
speed through the Hospitallers, who had led the charge, and to whom he
was bringing assistance with all his retinue, and broke into the
Turkish infantry, who were astonished at his blows and those of his
men, and gave way to the right and to the left.
Then might be seen numbers prostrated on the ground, horses
without their riders in crowds, the wounded lamenting with groans
their hard fate, and others drawing their last breath, weltering in
their gore, and many lay headless, whilst their lifeless forms were
trodden under foot both by friend and foe. Oh, how different are the
speculations of those who meditate amidst the columns of the
cloister from the fearful exercise of war! There the king, the fierce,
the extraordinary king, cut down the Turks in every direction, and
none could escape the force of his arm, for wherever he turned,
brandishing his sword, he carved a wide path for himself; and as he
advanced and gave repeated strokes with his sword, cutting them down
like a reaper with his sickle, the rest, warned by the sight of the
dying, gave him more ample space, for the corpses of the dead Turks
which lay on the face of the earth extended over half a mile. In fine,
the Turks were cut down, the saddles emptied of their riders, and
the dust which was raised by the conflict of the combatants proved
very hurtful to our men, for on becoming fatigued from slaying so
many, when they were retiring to take fresh air, they could not
recognize each other on account of the thick dust, and struck their
blows indiscriminately to the right and to the left; so that unable to
distinguish friend from foe they took their own men for enemies and
cut them down without mercy. Then the Christians pressed hard on the
Turks, the latter gave way before them: but for a long time the battle
was doubtful; they still exchanged blows, and either party strove
for the victory; on both sides were seen some retreating, covered with
wounds, while others fell slain to the ground.
Oh, how many banners and standards of different forms, and pennons
and many-colored ensigns, might there be seen torn and fallen on the
earth; swords of proved steel, and lances made of cane with iron
heads, Turkish bows, and maces bristling with sharp teeth, darts and
arrows covering the ground, and missiles enough to load twenty
wagons or morel There lay the headless trunks of the Turks who had
perished, whilst others retained their courage for a time until our
men increased in strength, when some of them concealed themselves in
the copses, some climbed up trees, and, being shot with arrows, fell
with a fearful groan to the earth; others, abandoning their horses,
betook themselves by slippery footpaths to the seaside, and tumbled
headlong into the waves from the precipitous cliffs that were five
poles in height. The rest of the enemy were repulsed in so wonderful a
manner that for the space of two miles nothing could be seen but
fugitives, although they had before been so obstinate and fierce,
and puffed up with pride; but by God's grace their pride was
humbled, and they continued still to fly, for when our men ceased
the pursuit fear alone added wings to their feet. Our army had been
ranged in divisions when they attacked the Turks; the Normans and
English also, who had the care of the standard, came up slowly towards
the troops which were fighting with the Turks,- for it was very
difficult to disperse the enemy's strength, and they stopped at a
short distance therefrom, that all might have a rallying point. On the
conclusion of the slaughter our men paused; but the fugitives, to
the number of twenty thousand, when they saw this, immediately
recovering their courage, and armed with maces, charged the hindmost
of those who were retiring, and rescued some from our men who had,
just struck them down.
Oh, how dreadfully were our men then pressed! for the darts and
arrows, thrown at them as they were falling back, broke the heads,
arms, and other limbs of our horsemen, so that they bent, stunned,
to their saddle-bows; but having quickly regained their spirits and
resumed their strength, and thirsting for vengeance with greater
eagerness, like a lioness when her whelps are stolen, they charged the
enemy, and broke through them like a net. Then you might have seen the
horses with their saddles displaced, and the Turks, who had but just
now fled, returning, and pressing upon our people with the utmost
fury; every cast of their darts would have told had our men kept
marching, and not stood still in a compact, immovable body. The
commander of the Turks was an admiral, named Tekedmus, a kinsman of
the sultan, having a banner with a remarkable device; namely that of a
pair of breeches carved thereon, a symbol well known to his men. He
was a most cruel persecutor, and a persevering enemy of the
Christians; and he had under his command seven hundred chosen Turks of
great valor, of the household troops of Saladin, each of whose
companies bore a yellow banner with pennons of a different color.
These men, coming at full charge, with clamor and haughty bearing,
attacked our men, who were turning off from them towards the standard,
cutting at them, and piercing them severely, so that even the firmness
of our chiefs wavered under the weight of the pressure; yet our men
remained immovable, compelled to repel force by force. And the
conflict grew thicker, the blows were redoubled, and the battle
waxed fiercer than before: the one side labored to crush, the other to
repel; both exerted their strength, and although our men were by far
the fewest in numbers, they made havoc of great multitudes of the
enemy; and that portion of the army which thus toiled in the battle
could not return to the standard with ease, on account of the
immense mass which pressed upon them so severely; for thus hemmed in
they began to flag in courage, and but few dared to renew the attack
of the enemy. In truth, the Turks were furious in the assault, and
greatly distressed our men, whose blood poured forth in a stream
beneath their blows. On perceiving them reel and give way, William
de Barris, a renowned knight, breaking through the ranks, charged
the Turks with his men; and such was the vigor of the onset that
some fell by the edge of his sword, while others only saved themselves
by rapid flight. For all that, the king, mounted on a bay Cyprian
steed, which had not its match, bounded forward in the direction of
the mountains, and scattered those he met on all sides; for the
enemy fled from his sword and gave way, while helmets tottered beneath
it, and sparks flew forth from its strokes. So great was the fury of
his onset, and so many and deadly his blows that day, in his
conflict with the Turks, that in a short space of time the enemy
were all scattered, and allowed our army to proceed; and thus our men,
having suffered somewhat, at last returned to the standard, and
proceeded on their march as far as Arsur, and there they pitched their
tents outside its walls.
While they were thus engaged a large body of the Turks made an
attack on the extreme rear of our army. On hearing the noise of the
assailants, King Richard, encouraging his men to battle, rushed at
full speed, with only fifteen companions, against the Turks, crying
out, with a loud voice, "Aid us, O God! and the Holy Sepulchre!" and
this he exclaimed a second and a third time; and when our men heard it
they made haste to follow him, and attacked, routed, and put them to
flight; pursuing them as far as Arsur, whence they had first come out,
cutting them down and subduing them. Many of the Turks fell there
also. The king returned thence from the slaughter of the fugitives
to his camp; and the men, overcome with the fatigue and exertions of
the day, rested quietly that night.
Whoever was greedy of gain, and wished to plunder the booty,
returned to the place of battle, and loaded himself to his heart's
desire; and those who returned from thence reported that they had
counted thirty-two Turkish chiefs who were found slain on that day,
and whom they supposed to be men of great influence and power from the
splendor of their armor and the costliness of their apparel. The Turks
also made search for them to carry them away as being of the most
importance; and besides these the Turks carried off seven thousand
mangled bodies of those who were next in rank, besides of the wounded,
who went off in straggling parties; and when their strength failed lay
about the fields and died. But by the protection of God we did not
lose a tenth, nor a hundredth part so many as fell in the Turkish
army. Oh, the disasters of that day! Oh, the trials of the warriors!
for the tribulations of the just are many. Oh, mournful calamity and
bitter distress. How great must have been the blackness of our sins to
require so fiery an ordeal to purify it, for if we had striven to
overcome the urgent necessity by pious long-suffering, and without a
murmur, the sense of our obligations would have been deeper.
And again the Christians were put in great peril, in the following
manner. At the siege of Joppa a certain depraved set of men among
the Saracens, called Menelones of Aleppo and Cordivi, an active
race, met together to consult what should be done in the existing
state of things. They spoke of the scandal which lay against them,
that so small an army, without horses, had driven them out of Joppa,
and they reproached themselves with cowardice and shameful baseness,
and arrogantly made a compact among themselves that they would seize
King Richard in his tent, and bring him before Saladin, from whom they
would receive a most munificent reward.
So they prepared themselves in the middle of the night to surprise
the king, and sallied forth armed, by the light of the moon,
conversing with one another about the object they had in hand. Oh,
hateful race of unbelievers! they are anxiously bent upon seizing
Christ's steadfast soldier while he is asleep. They rush on in numbers
to seize him, unarmed and apprehensive of no danger. They were not far
from his tent, and were preparing to lay hands on him, when, lo! the
God of mercy, who never neglects those who trust in Him, and acts in a
wonderful manner even to those who know Him not, sent the spirit of
discord among the aforesaid Cordivi and Menelones. The Cordivi said,
"You shall go in on foot to take the king and his followers, whilst we
will remain on horseback to prevent their escaping into the castle."
But the Menelones replied, "Nay, it is your place to go in on foot,
because our rank is higher than yours; but this service on foot
belongs to you rather than us." Whilst thus the two parties were
contending which of them were the greatest, their combined dispute
caused much delay; and when at last they came to a decision how
their nefarious attempt should be achieved, the dawn of the day
appeared, viz., the Wednesday next following the feast of St. Peter ad
vincula. But now by the providence of God, who had decreed that his
holy champion should not be seized whilst asleep by the infidels, a
certain Genoese was led by the divine impulse to go out early in the
morning into the fields, where he was alarmed by the noise of men
and horses advancing, and returned speedily, but just had time to
see helmets reflecting back the light which now fell upon them. He
immediately rushed with speed into the camp, calling out, "To arms! to
arms!" The king was awakened by the noise, and leaping startled from
his bed, put on his impenetrable coat of mail, and summoned his men to
the rescue.
God of all mercies! lives there a man who would not be shaken by
such a sudden alarm? The enemy rushed unawares, armed against unarmed,
many against few, for our men had no time to arm or even to dress
themselves. The king himself, therefore, and many others with him,
on the urgency of the moment, proceeded without their cuishes to the
fight, some even without their breeches, and they armed themselves
in the best manner they could, though they were going to fight the
whole day. Whilst our men were thus arming in haste, the Turks drew
near, and the king mounted his horse, with only ten other knights with
him. These alone had horses, and some even of them had base and
impotent horses, unused to arms; the common men were drawn skilfully
out in ranks and troops, with each a captain to command them. The
knights were posted nearer to the sea, having the church of St.
Nicholas on the left, because the Turks had directed their principal
attack on that quarter, and the Pisans and Genoese were posted
beyond the suburban gardens, having other troops mingled with them.
Oh, who could fully relate the terrible attacks of the infidels? The
Turks at first rushed on with horrid yells, hurling their javelins and
shooting their arrows. Our men prepared themselves as they best
could to receive their furious attack, each fixing his right knee in
the ground, that so they might the better hold together and maintain
their position; whilst there the thighs of their left legs were
bent, and their left hands held their shields or bucklers; stretched
out before them in their right hands they held their lances, of
which the lower ends were fixed in the ground, and their iron heads
pointed threateningly towards the enemy.
Between every two of the men who were thus covered with their
shields, the king, versed in arms, placed an arbalester, and another
behind him to stretch the arbalest as quickly as possible, so that the
man in front might discharge his shot whilst the other was loading.
This was found to be of much benefit to our men, and did much harm
to the enemy. Thus everything was prepared as well as the shortness of
the time allowed, and our little army was drawn up in order. The
king ran along the ranks, and exhorted every man to be brave and not
to flinch. "Courage, my brave men," said he; "and let not the attack
of the enemy disturb you. Bear up against the powers of fortune, and
you will rise above them. Everything may be borne by brave men;
adversity sheds a light upon the virtues of mankind. as certainly as
prosperity casts over them a shade; there is no room for flight, for
the enemy surround us, and to attempt to flee is to provoke certain
death. Be brave, therefore, and let the urgency of the case sharpen up
your valor; brave men should either conquer nobly or gloriously die.
Martyrdom is a boon which we should receive with willing mind; but
before we die, let us, whilst still alive, do what we may to avenge
our deaths, giving thanks to God that it has been our lot to die
martyrs. This will be the end of our labors, the termination of our
life and of our battles. These words were hardly spoken, when the
hostile army rushed with ferocity upon them, in seven troops, each
of which contained about a thousand horse. Our men received their
attack with their right feet planted firm against the sand, and
remained immovable. Their lances formed a wall against the enemy,
who would have assuredly broken through, if our men had in the least
given way.
The first line of the Turks, perceiving, as they advanced, that
our men stood immovable, recoiled a little, when our men plied them
with a shower of missiles, slaying large numbers of men and horses.
Another line of Turks at once came on in like manner, and were again
encountered and driven back. In this way the Turks came on like a
whirlwind, again and again, making the appearance of an attack, that
our men might be induced to give way, and when they were close up they
turned their horses off in another direction. The king and his
knights, who were on horseback, perceiving this, put spurs to their
horses, and charged into the middle of the enemy, upsetting them right
and left, and piercing a large number through the body with their
lances; at last they pulled up their horses, because they found that
they had penetrated entirely through the Turkish lines. The king,
now looking about him, saw the noble earl of Leicester fallen from his
horse, and fighting bravely on foot. No sooner did he see this, than
he rushed to his rescue, snatched him out of the hands of the enemy,
and replaced him on his horse. What a terrible combat was then
waged! A multitude of Turks advanced, and used every exertion to
destroy our small army; vexed at our success, they rushed toward the
royal standard of the lion, for they would rather have slain the
king than a thousand others. In the midst of the melee the king saw
Ralph de Mauleon dragged off prisoner by the Turks, and spurring his
horse to speed, in a moment released him from their hands, and
restored him to the army; for the king was a very giant in the battle,
and was everywhere in the field,- now here, now there, wherever the
attacks of the Turks raged the hottest. So bravely did he fight,
that there was no one, however gallant, that would not readily and
deservedly yield to him the pre-eminence. On that day he performed the
most gallant deeds on the furious army of the Turks, and slew
numbers with his sword, which shone like lightning; some of them
were cloven in two, from their helmet to their teeth, whilst others
lost their heads, arms, and other members, which were lopped off at
a single blow. While the king was thus laboring with incredible
exertions in the fight, a Turk advanced towards him, mounted on a
foaming steed. He had been sent by Saphadin of Archadia, brother to
Saladin, a liberal and munificent man, if he had not rejected the
Christian faith. This man now sent to the king, as a token of his
well-known honorable character, two nobles horses, requesting him
earnestly to accept them, and make use of them, and if he returned
safe and sound out of that battle, to remember the gift and recompense
it in any manner he pleased. The king readily received the present,
and afterwards nobly recompensed the giver. Such is bravery,
cognizable even in an enemy; since a Turk, who was our bitter foe,
thus honored the king for his distinguished valor. The king,
especially at such a moment of need, protested that he would have
taken any number of horses equally good from any one even more a foe
than Saphadin, so necessary were they to him at that moment. Fierce
now raged the fight, when such numbers attacked so few; the whole
earth was covered with the javelins and arrows of the unbelievers;
they threw them, several at a time, at our men, of whom many were
wounded. Thus the weight of battle fell heavier up on us than
before, and the galleymen withdrew in the galleys which brought
them; and so, in their anxiety to be safe, they sacrificed their
character for bravery. Meanwhile a shout was raised by the Turks, as
they strove who should first occupy the town, hoping to slay those
of our men whom they should find within. The king, hearing the clamor,
taking with him only two knights and two crossbow-men, met three
Turks, nobly caparisoned, in one of the principal streets. Rushing
bravely upon them, he slew the riders in his own royal fashion, and
made booty of two horses. The rest of the Turks who were found in
the town were put to the rout in spite of their resistance, and
dispersing in different directions, sought to make their escape,
even where there was no regular road. The king also commanded the
parts of the walls which were broken down to be made good, and
placed sentinels to keep watch lest the town should be again attacked.
These matters settled, the king went down to the shore, where many
of our men had taken refuge on board the galleys. These the king
exhorted by the most cogent arguments to return to the battle, and
share with the rest whatever might befall them. Leaving five men as
guards on board each galley, the king led back the rest to assist
his hard-pressed army, and he no sooner arrived than with all his fury
he fell upon the thickest ranks of the enemy, driving them back and
routing them, so that even those who were at a distance and
untouched by him were overwhelmed by the throng of the troops as
they retreated, Never was there such an attack made by an
individual. He pierced into the middle of the hostile army, and
performed the deeds of a brave and distinguished warrior. The Turks at
once closed upon him, and tried to overwhelm him. In the meantime
our men, losing sight of the king, were fearful lest he should have
been slain, and when one of them proposed that they should advance
to find him, our lines could hardly contain themselves. But if by
any chance the disposition of our troops had been broken, without
doubt they would all have been destroyed. What, however, was to be
thought of the king, who was hemmed in by the enemy, a single man
opposed to so many thousands? The hand of the writer faints to see it,
and the mind of the reader to hear it. Who ever heard of such a man?
His bravery was ever of the highest order, no adverse storm could sink
it; his valor was ever becoming, and if we may from a few instances
judge of many, it was ever indefatigable in war. Why then do we
speak of the valor of Antaeus, who regained his strength every time he
touched his mother earth, for Antaeus perished when he was lifted up
from the earth in the long wrestling match. The body of Achilles also,
who slew Hector, was invulnerable, because he was dipped in the
Stygian waves; yet Achilles was mortally wounded in the very part by
which he was held when they dipped him. Likewise Alexander, the
Macedonian, who was stimulated by ambition to subjugate the whole
world, undertook a most difficult enterprise, and with a handful of
choice soldiers fought many celebrated battles, but the chief part
of his valor consisted of the excellence of his soldiers. In the
same manner the brave Judas Maccabeus, of whom all the world
discoursed, performed many wonderful deeds worthy forever to be
remembered, but when he was abandoned by his soldiers in the midst
of a battle, with thousands of enemies to oppose him, he was slain,
together with his brothers. But King Richard, inured to battle from
his tenderest years, and to whom even famous Roland could not be
considered equal, remained invincible, even in the midst of the enemy;
and his body, as if it were made of brass, was impenetrable to any
kind of weapon. In his right hand he brandished his sword, which in
its rapid descent broke the ranks on either side of him. Such was
his energy amid that host of Turks that, fearing nothing, he destroyed
all around him, mowing men down with his scythe as reapers mow down
the corn with their sickles. Who could describe his deeds? Whoever
felt one of his blows had no need of a second. Such was the energy
of his courage that it seemed to rejoice at having found an occasion
to display itself. The sword wielded by his powerful hand cut down men
and horses alike, cleaving them to the middle. The more he was himself
separated from his men, and the more the enemy sought to overwhelm
him, the more did his valor shine conspicuous. Among other brave deeds
which he performed on that occasion he slew by one marvellous stroke
an admiral, who was conspicuous above the rest of the enemy by his
rich caparisons. This man by his gestures seemed to say that he was
going to do something wonderful, and whilst he reproached the rest
with cowardice he put spurs to his horse and charged full against
the king, who, waving his sword as he saw him coming, smote off at a
single blow not only his head, but his shoulder and right arm. The
Turks were terror-struck at the sight, and, giving way on all sides,
scarcely dared to shoot at him from a distance with their arrows.
The king now returned safe and unhurt to his friends, and encouraged
them more than ever with the hope of victory. How were their minds
raised from despair when they saw him coming safe out of the enemy's
ranks! They knew not what had happened to him, but they knew that
without him all the hopes of the Christian army would be in vain.
The king's person was stuck all over with javelins, like a deer
pierced by the hunters, and the trappings of his horse were thickly
covered with arrows. Thus, like a brave soldier, he returned from
the contest, and a bitter contest it was, for it had lasted from the
morning sun to the setting sun. It may seem wonderful and even
incredible, that so small a body of men endured so long a conflict;
but by God's mercy we cannot doubt the truth of it, for in that battle
only one or two of our men were slain. But the number of the Turkish
horses that lay dead on the field is said to have exceeded fifteen
hundred; and of the Turks themselves more than seven hundred were
killed, and yet they did not carry back King Richard, as they had
boasted, as a present to Saladin; but, on the contrary, he and his
horse performed so many deeds of valor in the sight of the Turks
that the enemy shuddered to behold him.
In the meantime our men having by God's grace escaped destruction,
the Turkish army returned to Saladin, who is said to have ridiculed
them by asking where Melech Richard was, for they had promised to
bring him a prisoner? "Which of you," continued he "first seized
him, and where is he? Why is he not produced?" To whom one of the
Turks that came from the furthest countries of the earth replied,
"In truth, my lord, Melech Richard, about whom you ask, is not here;
we have never heard since the beginning of the world that there ever
was such a knight, so brave and so experienced in arms. In every
deed of arms he is ever the foremost; in deeds he is without a
rival, the first to advance and the last to retreat; we did our best
to seize him, but in vain, for no man can escape from his sword; his
attack is dreadful; to engage with him is fatal, and his deeds are
beyond human nature."

Thomas Bulfinch