Sir Walter Scott
Part 1 out of 8
By Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
INTRODUCTION TO THE TALISMAN.
The "Betrothed" did not greatly please one or two friends, who
thought that it did not well correspond to the general title of
"The Crusaders." They urged, therefore, that, without direct
allusion to the manners of the Eastern tribes, and to the
romantic conflicts of the period, the title of a "Tale of the
Crusaders" would resemble the playbill, which is said to have
announced the tragedy of Hamlet, the character of the Prince of
Denmark being left out. On the other hand, I felt the difficulty
of giving a vivid picture of a part of the world with which I was
almost totally unacquainted, unless by early recollections of the
Arabian Nights' Entertainments; and not only did I labour under
the incapacity of ignorance--in which, as far as regards Eastern
manners, I was as thickly wrapped as an Egyptian in his fog--but
my contemporaries were, many of them, as much enlightened upon
the subject as if they had been inhabitants of the favoured land
of Goshen. The love of travelling had pervaded all ranks, and
carried the subjects of Britain into all quarters of the world.
Greece, so attractive by its remains of art, by its struggles for
freedom against a Mohammedan tyrant, by its very name, where
every fountain had its classical legend--Palestine, endeared to
the imagination by yet more sacred remembrances--had been of late
surveyed by British eyes, and described by recent travellers.
Had I, therefore, attempted the difficult task of substituting
manners of my own invention, instead of the genuine costume of
the East, almost every traveller I met who had extended his route
beyond what was anciently called "The Grand Tour," had acquired a
right, by ocular inspection, to chastise me for my presumption.
Every member of the Travellers' Club who could pretend to have
thrown his shoe over Edom was, by having done so, constituted my
lawful critic and corrector. It occurred, therefore, that where
the author of Anastasius, as well as he of Hadji Baba, had
described the manners and vices of the Eastern nations, not only
with fidelity, but with the humour of Le Sage and the ludicrous
power of Fielding himself, one who was a perfect stranger to the
subject must necessarily produce an unfavourable contrast. The
Poet Laureate also, in the charming tale of "Thalaba," had shown
how extensive might be the researches of a person of acquirements
and talent, by dint of investigation alone, into the ancient
doctrines, history, and manners of the Eastern countries, in
which we are probably to look for the cradle of mankind; Moore,
in his "Lalla Rookh," had successfully trod the same path; in
which, too, Byron, joining ocular experience to extensive
reading, had written some of his most attractive poems. In a
word, the Eastern themes had been already so successfully handled
by those who were acknowledged to be masters of their craft, that
I was diffident of making the attempt.
These were powerful objections; nor did they lose force when they
became the subject of anxious reflection, although they did not
finally prevail. The arguments on the other side were, that
though I had no hope of rivalling the contemporaries whom I have
mentioned, yet it occurred to me as possible to acquit myself of
the task I was engaged in without entering into competition with
The period relating more immediately to the Crusades which I at
last fixed upon was that at which the warlike character of
Richard I., wild and generous, a pattern of chivalry, with all
its extravagant virtues, and its no less absurd errors, was
opposed to that of Saladin, in which the Christian and English
monarch showed all the cruelty and violence of an Eastern sultan,
and Saladin, on the other hand, displayed the deep policy and
prudence of a European sovereign, whilst each contended which
should excel the other in the knightly qualities of bravery and
generosity. This singular contrast afforded, as the author
conceived, materials for a work of fiction possessing peculiar
interest. One of the inferior characters introduced was a
supposed relation of Richard Coeur de Lion--a violation of the
truth of history which gave offence to Mr. Mills, the author of
the "History of Chivalry and the Crusades," who was not, it may
be presumed, aware that romantic fiction naturally includes the
power of such invention, which is indeed one of the requisites of
Prince David of Scotland, who was actually in the host, and was
the hero of some very romantic adventures on his way home, was
also pressed into my service, and constitutes one of my DRAMATIS
It is true I had already brought upon the field him of the lion
heart. But it was in a more private capacity than he was here to
be exhibited in the Talisman--then as a disguised knight, now in
the avowed character of a conquering monarch; so that I doubted
not a name so dear to Englishmen as that of King Richard I. might
contribute to their amusement for more than once.
I had access to all which antiquity believed, whether of reality
or fable, on the subject of that magnificent warrior, who was the
proudest boast of Europe and their chivalry, and with whose
dreadful name the Saracens, according to a historian of their own
country, were wont to rebuke their startled horses. "Do you
think," said they, "that King Richard is on the track, that you
stray so wildly from it?" The most curious register of the
history of King Richard is an ancient romance, translated
originally from the Norman; and at first certainly having a
pretence to be termed a work of chivalry, but latterly becoming
stuffed with the most astonishing and monstrous fables. There is
perhaps no metrical romance upon record where, along with curious
and genuine history, are mingled more absurd and exaggerated
incidents. We have placed in the Appendix to this Introduction
the passage of the romance in which Richard figures as an ogre,
or literal cannibal.
A principal incident in the story is that from which the title is
derived. Of all people who ever lived, the Persians were perhaps
most remarkable for their unshaken credulity in amulets, spells,
periapts, and similar charms, framed, it was said, under the
influence of particular planets, and bestowing high medical
powers, as well as the means of advancing men's fortunes in
various manners. A story of this kind, relating to a Crusader of
eminence, is often told in the west of Scotland, and the relic
alluded to is still in existence, and even yet held in
Sir Simon Lockhart of Lee and Gartland made a considerable figure
in the reigns of Robert the Bruce and of his son David. He was
one of the chief of that band of Scottish chivalry who
accompanied James, the Good Lord Douglas, on his expedition to
the Holy Land with the heart of King Robert Bruce. Douglas,
impatient to get at the Saracens, entered into war with those of
Spain, and was killed there. Lockhart proceeded to the Holy Land
with such Scottish knights as had escaped the fate of their
leader and assisted for some time in the wars against the
The following adventure is said by tradition to have befallen
He made prisoner in battle an Emir of considerable wealth and
consequence. The aged mother of the captive came to the
Christian camp, to redeem her son from his state of captivity.
Lockhart is said to have fixed the price at which his prisoner
should ransom himself; and the lady, pulling out a large
embroidered purse, proceeded to tell down the ransom, like a
mother who pays little respect to gold in comparison of her son's
liberty. In this operation, a pebble inserted in a coin, some
say of the Lower Empire, fell out of the purse, and the Saracen
matron testified so much haste to recover it as gave the Scottish
knight a high idea of its value, when compared with gold or
silver. "I will not consent," he said, "to grant your son's
liberty, unless that amulet be added to his ransom." The lady
not only consented to this, but explained to Sir Simon Lockhart
the mode in which the talisman was to be used, and the uses to
which it might be put. The water in which it was dipped operated
as a styptic, as a febrifuge, and possessed other properties as a
Sir Simon Lockhart, after much experience of the wonders which it
wrought, brought it to his own country, and left it to his heirs,
by whom, and by Clydesdale in general, it was, and is still,
distinguished by the name of the Lee-penny, from the name of his
native seat of Lee.
The most remarkable part of its history, perhaps, was that it so
especially escaped condemnation when the Church of Scotland chose
to impeach many other cures which savoured of the miraculous, as
occasioned by sorcery, and censured the appeal to them,
"excepting only that to the amulet, called the Lee-penny, to
which it had pleased God to annex certain healing virtues which
the Church did not presume to condemn." It still, as has been
said, exists, and its powers are sometimes resorted to. Of late,
they have been chiefly restricted to the cure of persons bitten
by mad dogs; and as the illness in such cases frequently arises
from imagination, there can be no reason for doubting that water
which has been poured on the Lee-penny furnishes a congenial
Such is the tradition concerning the talisman, which the author
has taken the liberty to vary in applying it to his own purposes.
Considerable liberties have also been taken with the truth of
history, both with respect to Conrade of Montserrat's life, as
well as his death. That Conrade, however, was reckoned the enemy
of Richard is agreed both in history and romance. The general
opinion of the terms upon which they stood may be guessed from
the proposal of the Saracens that the Marquis of Montserrat
should be invested with certain parts of Syria, which they were
to yield to the Christians. Richard, according to the romance
which bears his name, "could no longer repress his fury. The
Marquis he said, was a traitor, who had robbed the Knights
Hospitallers of sixty thousand pounds, the present of his father
Henry; that he was a renegade, whose treachery had occasioned the
loss of Acre; and he concluded by a solemn oath, that he would
cause him to be drawn to pieces by wild horses, if he should ever
venture to pollute the Christian camp by his presence. Philip
attempted to intercede in favour of the Marquis, and throwing
down his glove, offered to become a pledge for his fidelity to
the Christians; but his offer was rejected, and he was obliged to
give way to Richard's impetuosity."--HISTORY OF CHIVALRY.
Conrade of Montserrat makes a considerable figure in those wars,
and was at length put to death by one of the followers of the
Scheik, or Old Man of the Mountain; nor did Richard remain free
of the suspicion of having instigated his death.
It may be said, in general, that most of the incidents introduced
in the following tale are fictitious, and that reality, where it
exists, is only retained in the characters of the piece.
ABBOTSFORD, 1st July, 1832
APPENDIX TO INTRODUCTION.
While warring in the Holy Land, Richard was seized with an ague.
The best leeches of the camp were unable to effect the cure of
the King's disease; but the prayers of the army were more
successful. He became convalescent, and the first symptom of his
recovery was a violent longing for pork. But pork was not likely
to be plentiful in a country whose inhabitants had an abhorrence
for swine's flesh; and
"Though his men should be hanged,
They ne might, in that countrey,
For gold, ne silver, ne no money,
No pork find, take, ne get,
That King Richard might aught of eat.
An old knight with Richard biding,
When he heard of that tiding,
That the kingis wants were swyche,
To the steward he spake privyliche--
"Our lord the king sore is sick, I wis,
After porck he alonged is;
Ye may none find to selle;
No man be hardy him so to telle!
If he did he might die.
Now behoves to done as I shall say,
Tho' he wete nought of that.
Take a Saracen, young and fat;
In haste let the thief be slain,
Opened, and his skin off flayn;
And sodden full hastily,
With powder and with spicery,
And with saffron of good colour.
When the king feels thereof savour,
Out of ague if he be went,
He shall have thereto good talent.
When he has a good taste,
And eaten well a good repast,
And supped of the BREWIS [Broth] a sup,
Slept after and swet a drop,
Through Goddis help and my counsail,
Soon he shall be fresh and hail.'
The sooth to say, at wordes few,
Slain and sodden was the heathen shrew.
Before the king it was forth brought:
Quod his men, 'Lord, we have pork sought;
Eates and sups of the brewis SOOTE,[Sweet]
Thorough grace of God it shall be your boot.'
Before King Richard carff a knight,
He ate faster than he carve might.
The king ate the flesh and GNEW [Gnawed] the bones,
And drank well after for the nonce.
And when he had eaten enough,
His folk hem turned away, and LOUGH.[Laughed]
He lay still and drew in his arm;
His chamberlain him wrapped warm.
He lay and slept, and swet a stound,
And became whole and sound.
King Richard clad him and arose,
And walked abouten in the close."
An attack of the Saracens was repelled by Richard in person, the
consequence of which is told in the following lines :-
"When King Richard had rested a whyle,
A knight his arms 'gan unlace,
Him to comfort and solace.
Him was brought a sop in wine.
'The head of that ilke swine,
That I of ate!' (the cook he bade,)
'For feeble I am, and faint and mad.
Of mine evil now I am fear;
Serve me therewith at my soupere!'
Quod the cook, 'That head I ne have.'
Then said the king, 'So God me save,
But I see the head of that swine,
For sooth, thou shalt lesen thine!'
The cook saw none other might be;
He fet the head and let him see.
He fell on knees, and made a cry--
'Lo, here the head! my Lord, mercy!'"
The cook had certainly some reason to fear that his master would
be struck with horror at the recollection of the dreadful banquet
to which he owed his recovery; but his fears were soon
"The swarte vis [Black face] when the king seeth,
His black beard and white teeth,
How his lippes grinned wide,
'What devil is this?' the king cried,
And 'gan to laugh as he were wode.
'What! is Saracen's flesh thus good?
That never erst I nought wist!
By God's death and his uprist,
Shall we never die for default,
While we may in any assault,
Slee Saracens, the flesh may take,
And seethen and roasten and do hem bake,
[And] Gnawen her flesh to the bones!
Now I have it proved once,
For hunger ere I be wo,
I and my folk shall eat mo!"'
The besieged now offered to surrender, upon conditions of safety
to the inhabitants; while all the public treasure, military
machines, and arms were delivered to the victors, together with
the further ransom of one hundred thousand bezants. After this
capitulation, the following extraordinary scene took place. We
shall give it in the words of the humorous and amiable George
Ellis, the collector and the editor of these Romances:--
"Though the garrison had faithfully performed the other articles
of their contract, they were unable to restore the cross, which
was not in their possession, and were therefore treated by the
Christians with great cruelty. Daily reports of their sufferings
were carried to Saladin; and as many of them were persons of the
highest distinction, that monarch, at the solicitation of their
friends, dispatched an embassy to King Richard with magnificent
presents, which he offered for the ransom of the captives. The
ambassadors were persons the most respectable from their age,
their rank, and their eloquence. They delivered their message in
terms of the utmost humility; and without arraigning the justice
of the conqueror in his severe treatment of their countrymen,
only solicited a period to that severity, laying at his feet the
treasures with which they were entrusted, and pledging themselves
and their master for the payment of any further sums which he
might demand as the price of mercy.
"King Richard spake with wordes mild.
'The gold to take, God me shield!
Among you partes [Divide] every charge.
I brought in shippes and in barge,
More gold and silver with me,
Than has your lord, and swilke three.
To his treasure have I no need!
But for my love I you bid,
To meat with me that ye dwell;
And afterward I shall you tell.
Thorough counsel I shall you answer,
What BODE [Message] ye shall to your lord bear.
"The invitation was gratefully accepted. Richard, in the
meantime, gave secret orders to his marshal that he should repair
to the prison, select a certain number of the most distinguished
captives, and, after carefully noting their names on a roll of
parchment, cause their heads to be instantly struck off; that
these heads should be delivered to the cook, with instructions to
clear away the hair, and, after boiling them in a cauldron, to
distribute them on several platters, one to each guest, observing
to fasten on the forehead of each the piece of parchment
expressing the name and family of the victim.
"'An hot head bring me beforn,
As I were well apayed withall,
Eat thereof fast I shall;
As it were a tender chick,
To see how the others will like.'
"This horrible order was punctually executed. At noon the guests
were summoned to wash by the music of the waits. The king took
his seat attended by the principal officers of his court, at the
high table, and the rest of the company were marshalled at a long
table below him. On the cloth were placed portions of salt at
the usual distances, but neither bread, wine, nor water. The
ambassadors, rather surprised at this omission, but still free
from apprehension, awaited in silence the arrival of the dinner,
which was announced by the sound of pipes, trumpets, and tabours;
and beheld, with horror and dismay, the unnatural banquet
introduced by the steward and his officers. Yet their sentiments
of disgust and abhorrence, and even their fears, were for a time
suspended by their curiosity. Their eyes were fixed on the king,
who, without the slightest change of countenance, swallowed the
morsels as fast as they could be supplied by the knight who
"Every man then poked other;
They said, 'This is the devil's brother,
That slays our men, and thus hem eats!'
"Their attention was then involuntarily fixed on the smoking
heads before them. They traced in the swollen and distorted
features the resemblance of a friend or near relation, and
received from the fatal scroll which accompanied each dish the
sad assurance that this resemblance was not imaginary. They sat
in torpid silence, anticipating their own fate in that of their
countrymen; while their ferocious entertainer, with fury in his
eyes, but with courtesy on his lips, insulted them by frequent
invitations to merriment. At length this first course was
removed, and its place supplied by venison, cranes, and other
dainties, accompanied by the richest wines. The king then
apologized to them for what had passed, which he attributed to
his ignorance of their taste; and assured them of his religious
respect for their characters as ambassadors, and of his readiness
to grant them a safe-conduct for their return. This boon was all
that they now wished to claim; and
"King Richard spake to an old man,
'Wendes home to your Soudan!
His melancholy that ye abate;
And sayes that ye came too late.
Too slowly was your time y-guessed;
Ere ye came, the flesh was dressed,
That men shoulden serve with me,
Thus at noon, and my meynie.
Say him, it shall him nought avail,
Though he for-bar us our vitail,
Bread, wine, fish, flesh, salmon, and conger;
Of us none shall die with hunger,
While we may wenden to fight,
And slay the Saracens downright,
Wash the flesh, and roast the head.
With OO [One] Saracen I may well feed
Well a nine or a ten
Of my good Christian men.
King Richard shall warrant,
There is no flesh so nourissant
Unto an English man,
Partridge, plover, heron, ne swan,
Cow ne ox, sheep ne swine,
As the head of a Sarazyn.
There he is fat, and thereto tender,
And my men be lean and slender.
While any Saracen quick be,
Livand now in this Syrie,
For meat will we nothing care.
Abouten fast we shall rare,
And every day we shall eat
All as many as we may get.
To England will we nought gon,
Till they be eaten every one.'"
ELLIS'S SPECIMENS OF EARLY ENGLISH METRICEL ROMANCES.
The reader may be curious to know owing to what circumstances so
extraordinary an invention as that which imputed cannibalism to
the King of England should have found its way into his history.
Mr. James, to whom we owe so much that is curious, seems to have
traced the origin of this extraordinary rumour.
"With the army of the cross also was a multitude of men," the
same author declares, "who made it a profession to be without
money. They walked barefoot, carried no arms, and even preceded
the beasts of burden in their march, living upon roots and herbs,
and presenting a spectacle both disgusting and pitiable.
"A Norman, who, according to all accounts, was of noble birth,
but who, having lost his horse, continued to follow as a foot
soldier, took the strange resolution of putting himself at the
head of this race of vagabonds, who willingly received him as
their king. Amongst the Saracens these men became well known
under the name of THAFURS (which Guibert translates TRUDENTES),
and were beheld with great horror from the general persuasion
that they fed on the dead bodies of their enemies; a report which
was occasionally justified, and which the king of the Thafurs
took care to encourage. This respectable monarch was frequently
in the habit of stopping his followers, one by one, in a narrow
defile, and of causing them to be searched carefully, lest the
possession of the least sum of money should render them unworthy
of the name of his subjects. If even two sous were found upon
any one, he was instantly expelled the society of his tribe, the
king bidding him contemptuously buy arms and fight.
"This troop, so far from being cumbersome to the army, was
infinitely serviceable, carrying burdens, bringing in forage,
provisions, and tribute; working the machines in the sieges; and,
above all, spreading consternation among the Turks, who feared
death from the lances of the knights less than that further
consummation they heard of under the teeth of the Thafurs."
[James's "History of Chivalry."]
It is easy to conceive that an ignorant minstrel, finding the
taste and ferocity of the Thafurs commemorated in the historical
accounts of the Holy Wars, has ascribed their practices and
propensities to the Monarch of England, whose ferocity was
considered as an object of exaggeration as legitimate as his
ABBOTSFORD, 1st July, 1832.
TALES OF THE CRUSADERS. TALE II.--THE TALISMAN.
They, too, retired
To the wilderness, but 'twas with arms. PARADISE REGAINED.
The burning sun of Syria had not yet attained its highest point
in the horizon, when a knight of the Red Cross, who had left his
distant northern home and joined the host of the Crusaders in
Palestine, was pacing slowly along the sandy deserts which lie in
the vicinity of the Dead Sea, or, as it is called, the Lake
Asphaltites, where the waves of the Jordan pour themselves into
an inland sea, from which there is no discharge of waters.
The warlike pilgrim had toiled among cliffs and precipices during
the earlier part of the morning. More lately, issuing from those
rocky and dangerous defiles, he had entered upon that great
plain, where the accursed cities provoked, in ancient days, the
direct and dreadful vengeance of the Omnipotent.
The toil, the thirst, the dangers of the way, were forgotten, as
the traveller recalled the fearful catastrophe which had
converted into an arid and dismal wilderness the fair and fertile
valley of Siddim, once well watered, even as the Garden of the
Lord, now a parched and blighted waste, condemned to eternal
Crossing himself, as he viewed the dark mass of rolling waters,
in colour as in duality unlike those of any other lake, the
traveller shuddered as he remembered that beneath these sluggish
waves lay the once proud cities of the plain, whose grave was dug
by the thunder of the heavens, or the eruption of subterraneous
fire, and whose remains were hid, even by that sea which holds no
living fish in its bosom, bears no skiff on its surface, and, as
if its own dreadful bed were the only fit receptacle for its
sullen waters, sends not, like other lakes, a tribute to the
ocean. The whole land around, as in the days of Moses, was
"brimstone and salt; it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass
groweth thereon." The land as well as the lake might be termed
dead, as producing nothing having resemblance to vegetation, and
even the very air was entirely devoid of its ordinary winged
inhabitants, deterred probably by the odour of bitumen and
sulphur which the burning sun exhaled from the waters of the lake
in steaming clouds, frequently assuming the appearance of
waterspouts. Masses of the slimy and sulphureous substance
called naphtha, which floated idly on the sluggish and sullen
waves, supplied those rolling clouds with new vapours, and
afforded awful testimony to the truth of the Mosaic history.
Upon this scene of desolation the sun shone with almost
intolerable splendour, and all living nature seemed to have
hidden itself from the rays, excepting the solitary figure which
moved through the flitting sand at a foot's pace, and appeared
the sole breathing thing on the wide surface of the plain. The
dress of the rider and the accoutrements of his horse were
peculiarly unfit for the traveller in such a country. A coat of
linked mail, with long sleeves, plated gauntlets, and a steel
breastplate, had not been esteemed a sufficient weight of armour;
there were also his triangular shield suspended round his neck,
and his barred helmet of steel, over which he had a hood and
collar of mail, which was drawn around the warrior's shoulders
and throat, and filled up the vacancy between the hauberk and the
headpiece. His lower limbs were sheathed, like his body, in
flexible mail, securing the legs and thighs, while the feet
rested in plated shoes, which corresponded with the gauntlets. A
long, broad, straight-shaped, double-edged falchion, with a
handle formed like a cross, corresponded with a stout poniard on
the other side. The knight also bore, secured to his saddle,
with one end resting on his stirrup, the long steel-headed lance,
his own proper weapon, which, as he rode, projected backwards,
and displayed its little pennoncelle, to dally with the faint
breeze, or drop in the dead calm. To this cumbrous equipment
must be added a surcoat of embroidered cloth, much frayed and
worn, which was thus far useful that it excluded the burning rays
of the sun from the armour, which they would otherwise have
rendered intolerable to the wearer. The surcoat bore, in several
places, the arms of the owner, although much defaced. These
seemed to be a couchant leopard, with the motto, "I sleep; wake
me not." An outline of the same device might be traced on his
shield, though many a blow had almost effaced the painting. The
flat top of his cumbrous cylindrical helmet was unadorned with
any crest. In retaining their own unwieldy defensive armour, the
Northern Crusaders seemed to set at defiance the nature of the
climate and country to which they had come to war.
The accoutrements of the horse were scarcely less massive and
unwieldy than those of the rider. The animal had a heavy saddle
plated with steel, uniting in front with a species of
breastplate, and behind with defensive armour made to cover the
loins. Then there was a steel axe, or hammer, called a mace-of-arms, and which hung to the saddle-bow.
The reins were secured
by chain-work, and the front-stall of the bridle was a steel
plate, with apertures for the eyes and nostrils, having in the
midst a short, sharp pike, projecting from the forehead of the
horse like the horn of the fabulous unicorn.
But habit had made the endurance of this load of panoply a second
nature, both to the knight and his gallant charger. Numbers,
indeed, of the Western warriors who hurried to Palestine died ere
they became inured to the burning climate; but there were others
to whom that climate became innocent and even friendly, and among
this fortunate number was the solitary horseman who now traversed
the border of the Dead Sea.
Nature, which cast his limbs in a mould of uncommon strength,
fitted to wear his linked hauberk with as much ease as if the
meshes had been formed of cobwebs, had endowed him with a
constitution as strong as his limbs, and which bade defiance to
almost all changes of climate, as well as to fatigue and
privations of every kind. His disposition seemed, in some
degree, to partake of the qualities of his bodily frame; and as
the one possessed great strength and endurance, united with the
power of violent exertion, the other, under a calm and
undisturbed semblance, had much of the fiery and enthusiastic
love of glory which constituted the principal attribute of the
renowned Norman line, and had rendered them sovereigns in every
corner of Europe where they had drawn their adventurous swords.
It was not, however, to all the race that fortune proposed such
tempting rewards; and those obtained by the solitary knight
during two years' campaign in Palestine had been only temporal
fame, and, as he was taught to believe, spiritual privileges.
Meantime, his slender stock of money had melted away, the rather
that he did not pursue any of the ordinary modes by which the
followers of the Crusade condescended to recruit their diminished
resources at the expense of the people of Palestine--he exacted
no gifts from the wretched natives for sparing their possessions
when engaged in warfare with the Saracens, and he had not availed
himself of any opportunity of enriching himself by the ransom of
prisoners of consequence. The small train which had followed him
from his native country had been gradually diminished, as the
means of maintaining them disappeared, and his only remaining
squire was at present on a sick-bed, and unable to attend his
master, who travelled, as we have seen, singly and alone. This
was of little consequence to the Crusader, who was accustomed to
consider his good sword as his safest escort, and devout thoughts
as his best companion.
Nature had, however, her demands for refreshment and repose even
on the iron frame and patient disposition of the Knight of the
Sleeping Leopard; and at noon, when the Dead Sea lay at some
distance on his right, he joyfully hailed the sight of two or
three palm-trees, which arose beside the well which was assigned
for his mid-day station. His good horse, too, which had plodded
forward with the steady endurance of his master, now lifted his
head, expanded his nostrils, and quickened his pace, as if he
snuffed afar off the living waters which marked the place of
repose and refreshment. But labour and danger were doomed to
intervene ere the horse or horseman reached the desired spot.
As the Knight of the Couchant Leopard continued to fix his eyes
attentively on the yet distant cluster of palm-trees, it seemed
to him as if some object was moving among them. The distant form
separated itself from the trees, which partly hid its motions,
and advanced towards the knight with a speed which soon showed a
mounted horseman, whom his turban, long spear, and green caftan
floating in the wind, on his nearer approach showed to be a
Saracen cavalier. "In the desert," saith an Eastern proverb, "no
man meets a friend." The Crusader was totally indifferent
whether the infidel, who now approached on his gallant barb as if
borne on the wings of an eagle, came as friend or foe--perhaps,
as a vowed champion of the Cross, he might rather have preferred
the latter. He disengaged his lance from his saddle, seized it
with the right hand, placed it in rest with its point half
elevated, gathered up the reins in the left, waked his horse's
mettle with the spur, and prepared to encounter the stranger with
the calm self-confidence belonging to the victor in many
The Saracen came on at the speedy gallop of an Arab horseman,
managing his steed more by his limbs and the inflection of his
body than by any use of the reins, which hung loose in his left
hand; so that he was enabled to wield the light, round buckler of
the skin of the rhinoceros, ornamented with silver loops, which
he wore on his arm, swinging it as if he meant to oppose its
slender circle to the formidable thrust of the Western lance.
His own long spear was not couched or levelled like that of his
antagonist, but grasped by the middle with his right hand, and
brandished at arm's-length above his head. As the cavalier
approached his enemy at full career, he seemed to expect that the
Knight of the Leopard should put his horse to the gallop to
encounter him. But the Christian knight, well acquainted with
the customs of Eastern warriors, did not mean to exhaust his good
horse by any unnecessary exertion; and, on the contrary, made a
dead halt, confident that if the enemy advanced to the actual
shock, his own weight, and that of his powerful charger, would
give him sufficient advantage, without the additional momentum of
rapid motion. Equally sensible and apprehensive of such a
probable result, the Saracen cavalier, when he had approached
towards the Christian within twice the length of his lance,
wheeled his steed to the left with inimitable dexterity, and rode
twice around his antagonist, who, turning without quitting his
ground, and presenting his front constantly to his enemy,
frustrated his attempts to attack him on an unguarded point; so
that the Saracen, wheeling his horse, was fain to retreat to the
distance of a hundred yards. A second time, like a hawk
attacking a heron, the heathen renewed the charge, and a second
time was fain to retreat without coming to a close struggle. A
third time he approached in the same manner, when the Christian
knight, desirous to terminate this illusory warfare, in which he
might at length have been worn out by the activity of his foeman,
suddenly seized the mace which hung at his saddle-bow, and, with
a strong hand and unerring aim, hurled it against the head of the
Emir, for such and not less his enemy appeared. The Saracen was
just aware of the formidable missile in time to interpose his
light buckler betwixt the mace and his head; but the violence of
the blow forced the buckler down on his turban, and though that
defence also contributed to deaden its violence, the Saracen was
beaten from his horse. Ere the Christian could avail himself of
this mishap, his nimble foeman sprung from the ground, and,
calling on his steed, which instantly returned to his side, he
leaped into his seat without touching the stirrup, and regained
all the advantage of which the Knight of the Leopard hoped to
deprive him. But the latter had in the meanwhile recovered his
mace, and the Eastern cavalier, who remembered the strength and
dexterity with which his antagonist had aimed it, seemed to keep
cautiously out of reach of that weapon of which he had so lately
felt the force, while he showed his purpose of waging a distant
warfare with missile weapons of his own. Planting his long spear
in the sand at a distance from the scene of combat, he strung,
with great address, a short bow, which he carried at his back;
and putting his horse to the gallop, once more described two or
three circles of a wider extent than formerly, in the course of
which he discharged six arrows at the Christian with such
unerring skill that the goodness of his harness alone saved him
from being wounded in as many places. The seventh shaft
apparently found a less perfect part of the armour, and the
Christian dropped heavily from his horse. But what was the
surprise of the Saracen, when, dismounting to examine the
condition of his prostrate enemy, he found himself suddenly
within the grasp of the European, who had had recourse to this
artifice to bring his enemy within his reach! Even in this
deadly grapple the Saracen was saved by his agility and presence
of mind. He unloosed the sword-belt, in which the Knight of the
Leopard had fixed his hold, and, thus eluding his fatal grasp,
mounted his horse, which seemed to watch his motions with the
intelligence of a human being, and again rode off. But in the
last encounter the Saracen had lost his sword and his quiver of
arrows, both of which were attached to the girdle which he was
obliged to abandon. He had also lost his turban in the struggle.
These disadvantages seemed to incline the Moslem to a truce. He
approached the Christian with his right hand extended, but no
longer in a menacing attitude.
"There is truce betwixt our nations," he said, in the lingua
franca commonly used for the purpose of communication with the
Crusaders; "wherefore should there be war betwixt thee and me?
Let there be peace betwixt us."
"I am well contented," answered he of the Couchant Leopard; "but
what security dost thou offer that thou wilt observe the truce?"
"The word of a follower of the Prophet was never broken,"
answered the Emir. "It is thou, brave Nazarene, from whom I
should demand security, did I not know that treason seldom dwells
The Crusader felt that the confidence of the Moslem made him
ashamed of his own doubts.
"By the cross of my sword," he said, laying his hand on the
weapon as he spoke, "I will be true companion to thee, Saracen,
while our fortune wills that we remain in company together."
"By Mohammed, Prophet of God, and by Allah, God of the Prophet,"
replied his late foeman, "there is not treachery in my heart
towards thee. And now wend we to yonder fountain, for the hour
of rest is at hand, and the stream had hardly touched my lip when
I was called to battle by thy approach."
The Knight of the Couchant Leopard yielded a ready and courteous
assent; and the late foes, without an angry look or gesture of
doubt, rode side by side to the little cluster of palm-trees.
Times of danger have always, and in a peculiar degree, their
seasons of good-will and security; and this was particularly so
in the ancient feudal ages, in which, as the manners of the
period had assigned war to be the chief and most worthy
occupation of mankind, the intervals of peace, or rather of
truce, were highly relished by those warriors to whom they were
seldom granted, and endeared by the very circumstances which
rendered them transitory. It is not worth while preserving any
permanent enmity against a foe whom a champion has fought with
to-day, and may again stand in bloody opposition to on the next
morning. The time and situation afforded so much room for the
ebullition of violent passions, that men, unless when peculiarly
opposed to each other, or provoked by the recollection of private
and individual wrongs, cheerfully enjoyed in each other's society
the brief intervals of pacific intercourse which a warlike life
The distinction of religions, nay, the fanatical zeal which
animated the followers of the Cross and of the Crescent against
each other, was much softened by a feeling so natural to generous
combatants, and especially cherished by the spirit of chivalry.
This last strong impulse had extended itself gradually from the
Christians to their mortal enemies the Saracens, both of Spain
and of Palestine. The latter were, indeed, no longer the
fanatical savages who had burst from the centre of Arabian
deserts, with the sabre in one hand and the Koran in the other,
to inflict death or the faith of Mohammed, or, at the best,
slavery and tribute, upon all who dared to oppose the belief of
the prophet of Mecca. These alternatives indeed had been offered
to the unwarlike Greeks and Syrians; but in contending with the
Western Christians, animated by a zeal as fiery as their own, and
possessed of as unconquerable courage, address, and success in
arms, the Saracens gradually caught a part of their manners, and
especially of those chivalrous observances which were so well
calculated to charm the minds of a proud and conquering people.
They had their tournaments and games of chivalry; they had even
their knights, or some rank analogous; and above all, the
Saracens observed their plighted faith with an accuracy which
might sometimes put to shame those who owned a better religion.
Their truces, whether national or betwixt individuals, were
faithfully observed; and thus it was that war, in itself perhaps
the greatest of evils, yet gave occasion for display of good
faith, generosity, clemency, and even kindly affections, which
less frequently occur in more tranquil periods, where the
passions of men, experiencing wrongs or entertaining quarrels
which cannot be brought to instant decision, are apt to smoulder
for a length of time in the bosoms of those who are so unhappy as
to be their prey.
It was under the influence of these milder feelings which soften
the horrors of warfare that the Christian and Saracen, who had so
lately done their best for each other's mutual destruction, rode
at a slow pace towards the fountain of palm-trees to which the
Knight of the Couchant Leopard had been tending, when interrupted
in mid-passage by his fleet and dangerous adversary. Each was
wrapt for some time in his own reflections, and took breath after
an encounter which had threatened to be fatal to one or both; and
their good horses seemed no less to enjoy the interval of repose.
That of the Saracen, however, though he had been forced into much
the more violent and extended sphere of motion, appeared to have
suffered less from fatigue than the charger of the European
knight. The sweat hung still clammy on the limbs of the latter,
when those of the noble Arab were completely dried by the
interval of tranquil exercise, all saving the foam-flakes which
were still visible on his bridle and housings. The loose soil on
which he trod so much augmented the distress of the Christian's
horse, heavily loaded by his own armour and the weight of his
rider, that the latter jumped from his saddle, and led his
charger along the deep dust of the loamy soil, which was burnt in
the sun into a substance more impalpable than the finest sand,
and thus gave the faithful horse refreshment at the expense of
his own additional toil; for, iron-sheathed as he was, he sunk
over the mailed shoes at every step which he placed on a surface
so light and unresisting.
"You are right," said the Saracen--and it was the first word that
either had spoken since their truce was concluded; "your strong
horse deserves your care. But what do you in the desert with an
animal which sinks over the fetlock at every step as if he would
plant each foot deep as the root of a date-tree?"
"Thou speakest rightly, Saracen," said the Christian knight, not
delighted at the tone with which the infidel criticized his
favourite steed--"rightly, according to thy knowledge and
observation. But my good horse hath ere now borne me, in mine
own land, over as wide a lake as thou seest yonder spread out
behind us, yet not wet one hair above his hoof."
The Saracen looked at him with as much surprise as his manners
permitted him to testify, which was only expressed by a slight
approach to a disdainful smile, that hardly curled perceptibly
the broad, thick moustache which enveloped his upper lip.
"It is justly spoken," he said, instantly composing himself to
his usual serene gravity; "List to a Frank, and hear a fable."
"Thou art not courteous, misbeliever," replied the Crusader, "to
doubt the word of a dubbed knight; and were it not that thou
speakest in ignorance, and not in malice, our truce had its
ending ere it is well begun. Thinkest thou I tell thee an
untruth when I say that I, one of five hundred horsemen, armed in
complete mail, have ridden--ay, and ridden for miles, upon water
as solid as the crystal, and ten times less brittle?"
"What wouldst thou tell me?" answered the Moslem. "Yonder
inland sea thou dost point at is peculiar in this, that, by the
especial curse of God, it suffereth nothing to sink in its waves,
but wafts them away, and casts them on its margin; but neither
the Dead Sea, nor any of the seven oceans which environ the
earth, will endure on their surface the pressure of a horse's
foot, more than the Red Sea endured to sustain the advance of
Pharaoh and his host."
"You speak truth after your knowledge, Saracen," said the
Christian knight; "and yet, trust me, I fable not, according to
mine. Heat, in this climate, converts the soil into something
almost as unstable as water; and in my land cold often converts
the water itself into a substance as hard as rock. Let us speak
of this no longer, for the thoughts of the calm, clear, blue
refulgence of a winter's lake, glimmering to stars and moonbeam,
aggravate the horrors of this fiery desert, where, methinks, the
very air which we breathe is like the vapour of a fiery furnace
seven times heated."
The Saracen looked on him with some attention, as if to discover
in what sense he was to understand words which, to him, must have
appeared either to contain something of mystery or of imposition.
At length he seemed determined in what manner to receive the
language of his new companion.
"You are," he said, "of a nation that loves to laugh, and you
make sport with yourselves, and with others, by telling what is
impossible, and reporting what never chanced. Thou art one of
the knights of France, who hold it for glee and pastime to GAB,
as they term it, of exploits that are beyond human power.
[Gaber. This French word signified a sort of sport much used
among the French chivalry, which consisted in vying with each
other in making the most romantic gasconades. The verb and the
meaning are retained in Scottish.] I were wrong to challenge,
for the time, the privilege of thy speech, since boasting is more
natural to thee than truth."
"I am not of their land, neither of their fashion," said the
Knight, "which is, as thou well sayest, to GAB of that which they
dare not undertake--or, undertaking, cannot perfect. But in this
I have imitated their folly, brave Saracen, that in talking to
thee of what thou canst not comprehend, I have, even in speaking
most simple truth, fully incurred the character of a braggart in
thy eyes; so, I pray you, let my words pass."
They had now arrived at the knot of palm-trees and the fountain
which welled out from beneath their shade in sparkling profusion.
We have spoken of a moment of truce in the midst of war; and
this, a spot of beauty in the midst of a sterile desert, was
scarce less dear to the imagination. It was a scene which,
perhaps, would elsewhere have deserved little notice; but as the
single speck, in a boundless horizon, which promised the
refreshment of shade and living water, these blessings, held
cheap where they are common, rendered the fountain and its
neighbourhood a little paradise. Some generous or charitable
hand, ere yet the evil days of Palestine began, had walled in and
arched over the fountain, to preserve it from being absorbed in
the earth, or choked by the flitting clouds of dust with which
the least breath of wind covered the desert. The arch was now
broken, and partly ruinous; but it still so far projected over
and covered in the fountain that it excluded the sun in a great
measure from its waters, which, hardly touched by a straggling
beam, while all around was blazing, lay in a steady repose, alike
delightful to the eye and the imagination. Stealing from under
the arch, they were first received in a marble basin, much
defaced indeed, but still cheering the eye, by showing that the
place was anciently considered as a station, that the hand of man
had been there and that man's accommodation had been in some
measure attended to. The thirsty and weary traveller was
reminded by these signs that others had suffered similar
difficulties, reposed in the same spot, and, doubtless, found
their way in safety to a more fertile country. Again, the scarce
visible current which escaped from the basin served to nourish
the few trees which surrounded the fountain, and where it sunk
into the ground and disappeared, its refreshing presence was
acknowledged by a carpet of velvet verdure.
In this delightful spot the two warriors halted, and each, after
his own fashion, proceeded to relieve his horse from saddle, bit,
and rein, and permitted the animals to drink at the basin, ere
they refreshed themselves from the fountain head, which arose
under the vault. They then suffered the steeds to go loose,
confident that their interest, as well as their domesticated
habits, would prevent their straying from the pure water and
Christian and Saracen next sat down together on the turf, and
produced each the small allowance of store which they carried for
their own refreshment. Yet, ere they severally proceeded to
their scanty meal, they eyed each other with that curiosity which
the close and doubtful conflict in which they had been so lately
engaged was calculated to inspire. Each was desirous to measure
the strength, and form some estimate of the character, of an
adversary so formidable; and each was compelled to acknowledge
that, had he fallen in the conflict, it had been by a noble hand.
The champions formed a striking contrast to each other in person
and features, and might have formed no inaccurate representatives
of their different nations. The Frank seemed a powerful man,
built after the ancient Gothic cast of form, with light brown
hair, which, on the removal of his helmet, was seen to curl thick
and profusely over his head. His features had acquired, from the
hot climate, a hue much darker than those parts of his neck which
were less frequently exposed to view, or than was warranted by
his full and well-opened blue eye, the colour of his hair, and of
the moustaches which thickly shaded his upper lip, while his chin
was carefully divested of beard, after the Norman fashion. His
nose was Grecian and well formed; his mouth rather large in
proportion, but filled with well-set, strong, and beautifully
white teeth; his head small, and set upon the neck with much
grace. His age could not exceed thirty, but if the effects of
toil and climate were allowed for, might be three or four years
under that period. His form was tall, powerful, and athletic,
like that of a man whose strength might, in later life, become
unwieldy, but which was hitherto united with lightness and
activity. His hands, when he withdrew the mailed gloves, were
long, fair, and well-proportioned; the wrist-bones peculiarly
large and strong; and the arms remarkably well-shaped and brawny.
A military hardihood and careless frankness of expression
characterized his language and his motions; and his voice had the
tone of one more accustomed to command than to obey, and who was
in the habit of expressing his sentiments aloud and boldly,
whenever he was called upon to announce them.
The Saracen Emir formed a marked and striking contrast with the
Western Crusader. His stature was indeed above the middle size,
but he was at least three inches shorter than the European, whose
size approached the gigantic. His slender limbs and long, spare
hands and arms, though well proportioned to his person, and
suited to the style of his countenance, did not at first aspect
promise the display of vigour and elasticity which the Emir had
lately exhibited. But on looking more closely, his limbs, where
exposed to view, seemed divested of all that was fleshy or
cumbersome; so that nothing being left but bone, brawn, and
sinew, it was a frame fitted for exertion and fatigue, far beyond
that of a bulky champion, whose strength and size are
counterbalanced by weight, and who is exhausted by his own
exertions. The countenance of the Saracen naturally bore a
general national resemblance to the Eastern tribe from whom he
descended, and was as unlike as possible to the exaggerated terms
in which the minstrels of the day were wont to represent the
infidel champions, and the fabulous description which a sister
art still presents as the Saracen's Head upon signposts. His
features were small, well-formed, and delicate, though deeply
embrowned by the Eastern sun, and terminated by a flowing and
curled black beard, which seemed trimmed with peculiar care. The
nose was straight and regular, the eyes keen, deep-set, black,
and glowing, and his teeth equalled in beauty the ivory of his
deserts. The person and proportions of the Saracen, in short,
stretched on the turf near to his powerful antagonist, might have
been compared to his sheeny and crescent-formed sabre, with its
narrow and light but bright and keen Damascus blade, contrasted
with the long and ponderous Gothic war-sword which was flung
unbuckled on the same sod. The Emir was in the very flower of
his age, and might perhaps have been termed eminently beautiful,
but for the narrowness of his forehead and something of too much
thinness and sharpness of feature, or at least what might have
seemed such in a European estimate of beauty.
The manners of the Eastern warrior were grave, graceful, and
decorous; indicating, however, in some particulars, the habitual
restraint which men of warm and choleric tempers often set as a
guard upon their native impetuosity of disposition, and at the
same time a sense of his own dignity, which seemed to impose a
certain formality of behaviour in him who entertained it.
This haughty feeling of superiority was perhaps equally
entertained by his new European acquaintance, but the effect was
different; and the same feeling, which dictated to the Christian
knight a bold, blunt, and somewhat careless bearing, as one too
conscious of his own importance to be anxious about the opinions
of others, appeared to prescribe to the Saracen a style of
courtesy more studiously and formally observant of ceremony.
Both were courteous; but the courtesy of the Christian seemed to
flow rather from a good humoured sense of what was due to others;
that of the Moslem, from a high feeling of what was to be
expected from himself.
The provision which each had made for his refreshment was simple,
but the meal of the Saracen was abstemious. A handful of dates
and a morsel of coarse barley-bread sufficed to relieve the
hunger of the latter, whose education had habituated them to the
fare of the desert, although, since their Syrian conquests, the
Arabian simplicity of life frequently gave place to the most
unbounded profusion of luxury. A few draughts from the lovely
fountain by which they reposed completed his meal. That of the
Christian, though coarse, was more genial. Dried hog's flesh,
the abomination of the Moslemah, was the chief part of his
repast; and his drink, derived from a leathern bottle, contained
something better than pure element. He fed with more display of
appetite, and drank with more appearance of satisfaction, than
the Saracen judged it becoming to show in the performance of a
mere bodily function; and, doubtless, the secret contempt which
each entertained for the other, as the follower of a false
religion, was considerably increased by the marked difference of
their diet and manners. But each had found the weight of his
opponent's arm, and the mutual respect which the bold struggle
had created was sufficient to subdue other and inferior
considerations. Yet the Saracen could not help remarking the
circumstances which displeased him in the Christian's conduct and
manners; and, after he had witnessed for some time in silence the
keen appetite which protracted the knight's banquet long after
his own was concluded, he thus addressed him:--
"Valiant Nazarene, is it fitting that one who can fight like a
man should feed like a dog or a wolf? Even a misbelieving Jew
would shudder at the food which you seem to eat with as much
relish as if it were fruit from the trees of Paradise."
"Valiant Saracen," answered the Christian, looking up with some
surprise at the accusation thus unexpectedly brought, "know thou
that I exercise my Christian freedom in using that which is
forbidden to the Jews, being, as they esteem themselves, under
the bondage of the old law of Moses. We, Saracen, be it known to
thee, have a better warrant for what we do--Ave Maria!--be we
thankful." And, as if in defiance of his companion's scruples,
he concluded a short Latin grace with a long draught from the
"That, too, you call a part of your liberty," said the Saracen;
"and as you feed like the brutes, so you degrade yourself to the
bestial condition by drinking a poisonous liquor which even they
"Know, foolish Saracen," replied the Christian, without
hesitation, "that thou blasphemest the gifts of God, even with
the blasphemy of thy father Ishmael. The juice of the grape is
given to him that will use it wisely, as that which cheers the
heart of man after toil, refreshes him in sickness, and comforts
him in sorrow. He who so enjoyeth it may thank God for his winecup as for his daily bread; and he who
abuseth the gift of Heaven
is not a greater fool in his intoxication than thou in thine
The keen eye of the Saracen kindled at this sarcasm, and his hand
sought the hilt of his poniard. It was but a momentary thought,
however, and died away in the recollection of the powerful
champion with whom he had to deal, and the desperate grapple, the
impression of which still throbbed in his limbs and veins; and he
contented himself with pursuing the contest in colloquy, as more
convenient for the time.
"Thy words" he said, "O Nazarene, might create anger, did not thy
ignorance raise compassion. Seest thou not, O thou more blind
than any who asks alms at the door of the Mosque, that the
liberty thou dost boast of is restrained even in that which is
dearest to man's happiness and to his household; and that thy
law, if thou dost practise it, binds thee in marriage to one
single mate, be she sick or healthy, be she fruitful or barren,
bring she comfort and joy, or clamour and strife, to thy table
and to thy bed? This, Nazarene, I do indeed call slavery;
whereas, to the faithful, hath the Prophet assigned upon earth
the patriarchal privileges of Abraham our father, and of Solomon,
the wisest of mankind, having given us here a succession of
beauty at our pleasure, and beyond the grave the black-eyed
houris of Paradise."
"Now, by His name that I most reverence in heaven," said the
Christian, "and by hers whom I most worship on earth, thou art
but a blinded and a bewildered infidel!-- That diamond signet
which thou wearest on thy finger, thou holdest it, doubtless, as
of inestimable value?"
"Balsora and Bagdad cannot show the like," replied the Saracen;
"but what avails it to our purpose?"
"Much," replied the Frank, "as thou shalt thyself confess. Take
my war-axe and dash the stone into twenty shivers: would each
fragment be as valuable as the original gem, or would they, all
collected, bear the tenth part of its estimation?"
"That is a child's question," answered the Saracen; "the
fragments of such a stone would not equal the entire jewel in the
degree of hundreds to one."
"Saracen," replied the Christian warrior, "the love which a true
knight binds on one only, fair and faithful, is the gem entire;
the affection thou flingest among thy enslaved wives and half-wedded slaves is worthless, comparatively,
as the sparkling
shivers of the broken diamond."
"Now, by the Holy Caaba," said the Emir, "thou art a madman who
hugs his chain of iron as if it were of gold! Look more closely.
This ring of mine would lose half its beauty were not the signet
encircled and enchased with these lesser brilliants, which grace
it and set it off. The central diamond is man, firm and entire,
his value depending on himself alone; and this circle of lesser
jewels are women, borrowing his lustre, which he deals out to
them as best suits his pleasure or his convenience. Take the
central stone from the signet, and the diamond itself remains as
valuable as ever, while the lesser gems are comparatively of
little value. And this is the true reading of thy parable; for
what sayeth the poet Mansour: 'It is the favour of man which
giveth beauty and comeliness to woman, as the stream glitters no
longer when the sun ceaseth to shine.'"
"Saracen," replied the Crusader, "thou speakest like one who
never saw a woman worthy the affection of a soldier. Believe me,
couldst thou look upon those of Europe, to whom, after Heaven, we
of the order of knighthood vow fealty and devotion, thou wouldst
loathe for ever the poor sensual slaves who form thy haram. The
beauty of our fair ones gives point to our spears and edge to our
swords; their words are our law; and as soon will a lamp shed
lustre when unkindled, as a knight distinguish himself by feats
of arms, having no mistress of his affection."
"I have heard of this frenzy among the warriors of the West,"
said the Emir, "and have ever accounted it one of the
accompanying symptoms of that insanity which brings you hither to
obtain possession of an empty sepulchre. But yet, methinks, so
highly have the Franks whom I have met with extolled the beauty
of their women, I could be well contented to behold with mine own
eyes those charms which can transform such brave warriors into
the tools of their pleasure."
"Brave Saracen," said the Knight, "if I were not on a pilgrimage
to the Holy Sepulchre, it should be my pride to conduct you, on
assurance of safety, to the camp of Richard of England, than whom
none knows better how to do honour to a noble foe; and though I
be poor and unattended yet have I interest to secure for thee, or
any such as thou seemest, not safety only, but respect and
esteem. There shouldst thou see several of the fairest beauties
of France and Britain form a small circle, the brilliancy of
which exceeds ten-thousandfold the lustre of mines of diamonds
such as thine."
"Now, by the corner-stone of the Caaba!" said the Saracen, "I
will accept thy invitation as freely as it is given, if thou wilt
postpone thy present intent; and, credit me, brave Nazarene, it
were better for thyself to turn back thy horse's head towards the
camp of thy people, for to travel towards Jerusalem without a
passport is but a wilful casting-away of thy life."
"I have a pass," answered the Knight, producing a parchment,
"Under Saladin's hand and signet."
The Saracen bent his head to the dust as he recognized the seal
and handwriting of the renowned Soldan of Egypt and Syria; and
having kissed the paper with profound respect, he pressed it to
his forehead, then returned it to the Christian, saying, "Rash
Frank, thou hast sinned against thine own blood and mine, for not
showing this to me when we met."
"You came with levelled spear," said the Knight. "Had a troop of
Saracens so assailed me, it might have stood with my honour to
have shown the Soldan's pass, but never to one man."
"And yet one man," said the Saracen haughtily, "was enough to
interrupt your journey."
"True, brave Moslem," replied the Christian; "but there are few
such as thou art. Such falcons fly not in flocks; or, if they
do, they pounce not in numbers upon one."
"Thou dost us but justice," said the Saracen, evidently gratified
by the compliment, as he had been touched by the implied scorn of
the European's previous boast; "from us thou shouldst have had no
wrong. But well was it for me that I failed to slay thee, with
the safeguard of the king of kings upon thy person. Certain it
were, that the cord or the sabre had justly avenged such guilt."
"I am glad to hear that its influence shall be availing to me,"
said the Knight; "for I have heard that the road is infested with
robber-tribes, who regard nothing in comparison of an opportunity
"The truth has been told to thee, brave Christian," said the
Saracen; "but I swear to thee, by the turban of the Prophet, that
shouldst thou miscarry in any haunt of such villains, I will
myself undertake thy revenge with five thousand horse. I will
slay every male of them, and send their women into such distant
captivity that the name of their tribe shall never again be heard
within five hundred miles of Damascus. I will sow with salt the
foundations of their village, and there shall never live thing
dwell there, even from that time forward."
"I had rather the trouble which you design for yourself were in
revenge of some other more important person than of me, noble
Emir," replied the Knight; "but my vow is recorded in heaven, for
good or for evil, and I must be indebted to you for pointing me
out the way to my resting-place for this evening."
"That," said the Saracen, "must be under the black covering of my
"This night," answered the Christian, "I must pass in prayer and
penitence with a holy man, Theodorick of Engaddi, who dwells
amongst these wilds, and spends his life in the service of God."
"I will at least see you safe thither," said the Saracen.
"That would be pleasant convoy for me," said the Christian; "yet
might endanger the future security of the good father; for the
cruel hand of your people has been red with the blood of the
servants of the Lord, and therefore do we come hither in plate
and mail, with sword and lance, to open the road to the Holy
Sepulchre, and protect the chosen saints and anchorites who yet
dwell in this land of promise and of miracle."
"Nazarene," said the Moslem, "in this the Greeks and Syrians have
much belied us, seeing we do but after the word of Abubeker
Alwakel, the successor of the Prophet, and, after him, the first
commander of true believers. 'Go forth,' he said, 'Yezed Ben
Sophian,' when he sent that renowned general to take Syria from
the infidels; 'quit yourselves like men in battle, but slay
neither the aged, the infirm, the women, nor the children. Waste
not the land, neither destroy corn and fruit-trees; they are the
gifts of Allah. Keep faith when you have made any covenant, even
if it be to your own harm. If ye find holy men labouring with
their hands, and serving God in the desert, hurt them not,
neither destroy their dwellings. But when you find them with
shaven crowns, they are of the synagogue of Satan! Smite with
the sabre, slay, cease not till they become believers or
tributaries.' As the Caliph, companion of the Prophet, hath told
us, so have we done, and those whom our justice has smitten are
but the priests of Satan. But unto the good men who, without
stirring up nation against nation, worship sincerely in the faith
of Issa Ben Mariam, we are a shadow and a shield; and such being
he whom you seek, even though the light of the Prophet hath not
reached him, from me he will only have love, favour, and regard."
"The anchorite whom I would now visit," said the warlike pilgrim,
"is, I have heard, no priest; but were he of that anointed and
sacred order, I would prove with my good lance, against paynim
"Let us not defy each other, brother," interrupted the Saracen;
"we shall find, either of us, enough of Franks or of Moslemah on
whom to exercise both sword and lance. This Theodorick is
protected both by Turk and Arab; and, though one of strange
conditions at intervals, yet, on the whole, he bears himself so
well as the follower of his own prophet, that he merits the
protection of him who was sent--"
"Now, by Our Lady, Saracen," exclaimed the Christian, "if thou
darest name in the same breath the camel-driver of Mecca with
An electrical shock of passion thrilled through the form of the
Emir; but it was only momentary, and the calmness of his reply
had both dignity and reason in it, when he said, "Slander not him
whom thou knowest not--the rather that we venerate the founder of
thy religion, while we condemn the doctrine which your priests
have spun from it. I will myself guide thee to the cavern of the
hermit, which, methinks, without my help, thou wouldst find it a
hard matter to reach. And, on the way, let us leave to mollahs
and to monks to dispute about the divinity of our faith, and
speak on themes which belong to youthful warriors--upon battles,
upon beautiful women, upon sharp swords, and upon bright armour."
The warriors arose from their place of brief rest and simple
refreshment, and courteously aided each other while they
carefully replaced and adjusted the harness from which they had
relieved for the time their trusty steeds. Each seemed familiar
with an employment which at that time was a part of necessary
and, indeed, of indispensable duty. Each also seemed to possess,
as far as the difference betwixt the animal and rational species
admitted, the confidence and affection of the horse which was the
constant companion of his travels and his warfare. With the
Saracen this familiar intimacy was a part of his early habits;
for, in the tents of the Eastern military tribes, the horse of
the soldier ranks next to, and almost equal in importance with,
his wife and his family; and with the European warrior,
circumstances, and indeed necessity, rendered his war-horse
scarcely less than his brother in arms. The steeds, therefore,
suffered themselves quietly to be taken from their food and
liberty, and neighed and snuffled fondly around their masters,
while they were adjusting their accoutrements for further travel
and additional toil. And each warrior, as he prosecuted his own
task, or assisted with courtesy his companion, looked with
observant curiosity at the equipments of his fellow-traveller,
and noted particularly what struck him as peculiar in the fashion
in which he arranged his riding accoutrements.
Ere they remounted to resume their journey, the Christian Knight
again moistened his lips and dipped his hands in the living
fountain, and said to his pagan associate of the journey, "I
would I knew the name of this delicious fountain, that I might
hold it in my grateful remembrance; for never did water slake
more deliciously a more oppressive thirst than I have this day
"It is called in the Arabic language," answered the Saracen, "by
a name which signifies the Diamond of the Desert."
"And well is it so named," replied the Christian. "My native
valley hath a thousand springs, but not to one of them shall I
attach hereafter such precious recollection as to this solitary
fount, which bestows its liquid treasures where they are not only
delightful, but nearly indispensable."
"You say truth," said the Saracen; "for the curse is still on
yonder sea of death, and neither man nor beast drinks of its
waves, nor of the river which feeds without filling it, until
this inhospitable desert be passed."
They mounted, and pursued their journey across the sandy waste.
The ardour of noon was now past, and a light breeze somewhat
alleviated the terrors of the desert, though not without bearing
on its wings an impalpable dust, which the Saracen little heeded,
though his heavily-armed companion felt it as such an annoyance
that he hung his iron casque at his saddle-bow, and substituted
the light riding-cap, termed in the language of the time a
MORTIER, from its resemblance in shape to an ordinary mortar.
They rode together for some time in silence, the Saracen
performing the part of director and guide of the journey, which
he did by observing minute marks and bearings of the distant
rocks, to a ridge of which they were gradually approaching. For
a little time he seemed absorbed in the task, as a pilot when
navigating a vessel through a difficult channel; but they had not
proceeded half a league when he seemed secure of his route, and
disposed, with more frankness than was usual to his nation, to
enter into conversation.
"You have asked the name," he said, "of a mute fountain, which
hath the semblance, but not the reality, of a living thing. Let
me be pardoned to ask the name of the companion with whom I have
this day encountered, both in danger and in repose, and which I
cannot fancy unknown even here among the deserts of Palestine?"
"It is not yet worth publishing," said the Christian. "Know,
however, that among the soldiers of the Cross I am called
Kenneth--Kenneth of the Couching Leopard; at home I have other
titles, but they would sound harsh in an Eastern ear. Brave
Saracen, let me ask which of the tribes of Arabia claims your
descent, and by what name you are known?"
"Sir Kenneth," said the Moslem, "I joy that your name is such as
my lips can easily utter. For me, I am no Arab, yet derive my
descent from a line neither less wild nor less warlike. Know,
Sir Knight of the Leopard, that I am Sheerkohf, the Lion of the
Mountain, and that Kurdistan, from which I derive my descent,
holds no family more noble than that of Seljook."
"I have heard," answered the Christian, "that your great Soldan
claims his blood from the same source?"
"Thanks to the Prophet that hath so far honoured our mountains as
to send from their bosom him whose word is victory," answered the
paynim. "I am but as a worm before the King of Egypt and Syria,
and yet in my own land something my name may avail. Stranger,
with how many men didst thou come on this warfare?"
"By my faith," said Sir Kenneth, "with aid of friends and
kinsmen, I was hardly pinched to furnish forth ten well-appointed
lances, with maybe some fifty more men, archers and varlets
included. Some have deserted my unlucky pennon--some have fallen
in battle--several have died of disease--and one trusty armour-bearer, for whose life I am now doing my
pilgrimage, lies on the
bed of sickness."
"Christian," said Sheerkohf, "here I have five arrows in my
quiver, each feathered from the wing of an eagle. When I send
one of them to my tents, a thousand warriors mount on horseback
--when I send another, an equal force will arise--for the five, I
can command five thousand men; and if I send my bow, ten thousand
mounted riders will shake the desert. And with thy fifty
followers thou hast come to invade a land in which I am one of
"Now, by the rood, Saracen," retorted the Western warrior, "thou
shouldst know, ere thou vauntest thyself, that one steel glove
can crush a whole handful of hornets."
"Ay, but it must first enclose them within its grasp," said the
Saracen, with a smile which might have endangered their new
alliance, had he not changed the subject by adding, "And is
bravery so much esteemed amongst the Christian princes that thou,
thus void of means and of men, canst offer, as thou didst of
late, to be my protector and security in the camp of thy
"Know, Saracen," said the Christian, "since such is thy style,
that the name of a knight, and the blood of a gentleman, entitle
him to place himself on the same rank with sovereigns even of the
first degree, in so far as regards all but regal authority and
dominion. Were Richard of England himself to wound the honour of
a knight as poor as I am, he could not, by the law of chivalry,
deny him the combat."
"Methinks I should like to look upon so strange a scene," said
the Emir, "in which a leathern belt and a pair of spurs put the
poorest on a level with the most powerful."
"You must add free blood and a fearless heart," said the
Christian; "then, perhaps, you will not have spoken untruly of
the dignity of knighthood."
"And mix you as boldly amongst the females of your chiefs and
leaders?" asked the Saracen.
"God forbid," said the Knight of the Leopard, "that the poorest
knight in Christendom should not be free, in all honourable
service, to devote his hand and sword, the fame of his actions,
and the fixed devotion of his heart, to the fairest princess who
ever wore coronet on her brow!"
"But a little while since," said the Saracen, "and you described
love as the highest treasure of the heart--thine hath undoubtedly
been high and nobly bestowed?"
"Stranger," answered the Christian, blushing deeply as he spoke,
"we tell not rashly where it is we have bestowed our choicest
treasures. It is enough for thee to know that, as thou sayest,
my love is highly and nobly bestowed--most highly--most nobly;
but if thou wouldst hear of love and broken lances, venture
thyself, as thou sayest, to the camp of the Crusaders, and thou
wilt find exercise for thine ears, and, if thou wilt, for thy
The Eastern warrior, raising himself in his stirrups, and shaking
aloft his lance, replied, "Hardly, I fear, shall I find one with
a crossed shoulder who will exchange with me the cast of the
"I will not promise for that," replied the Knight; "though there
be in the camp certain Spaniards, who have right good skill in
your Eastern game of hurling the javelin."
"Dogs, and sons of dogs!" ejaculated the Saracen; "what have
these Spaniards to do to come hither to combat the true
believers, who, in their own land, are their lords and
taskmasters? with them I would mix in no warlike pastime."
"Let not the knights of Leon or Asturias hear you speak thus of
them," said the Knight of the Leopard. " But," added he, smiling
at the recollection of the morning's combat, "if, instead of a
reed, you were inclined to stand the cast of a battle-axe, there
are enough of Western warriors who would gratify your longing."
"By the beard of my father, sir," said the Saracen, with an
approach to laughter, "the game is too rough for mere sport. I
will never shun them in battle, but my head" (pressing his hand
to his brow) "will not, for a while, permit me to seek them in
"I would you saw the axe of King Richard," answered the Western
warrior, "to which that which hangs at my saddle-bow weighs but
as a feather."
"We hear much of that island sovereign," said the Saracen. "Art
thou one of his subjects?"
"One of his followers I am, for this expedition," answered the
Knight, "and honoured in the service; but not born his subject,
although a native of the island in which he reigns."
"How mean you? " said the Eastern soldier; "have you then two
kings in one poor island?"
"As thou sayest," said the Scot, for such was Sir Kenneth by
birth. "It is even so; and yet, although the inhabitants of the
two extremities of that island are engaged in frequent war, the
country can, as thou seest, furnish forth such a body of men-at-arms as may go far to shake the unholy hold
which your master
hath laid on the cities of Zion."
"By the beard of Saladin, Nazarene, but that it is a thoughtless
and boyish folly, I could laugh at the simplicity of your great
Sultan, who comes hither to make conquests of deserts and rocks,
and dispute the possession of them with those who have tenfold
numbers at command, while he leaves a part of his narrow islet,
in which he was born a sovereign, to the dominion of another
sceptre than his. Surely, Sir Kenneth, you and the other good
men of your country should have submitted yourselves to the
dominion of this King Richard ere you left your native land,
divided against itself, to set forth on this expedition?"
Hasty and fierce was Kenneth's answer. "No, by the bright light
of Heaven! If the King of England had not set forth to the
Crusade till he was sovereign of Scotland, the Crescent might,
for me, and all true-hearted Scots, glimmer for ever on the walls
Thus far he had proceeded, when, suddenly recollecting himself,
he muttered, "MEA CULPA! MEA CULPA! what have I, a soldier of
the Cross, to do with recollection of war betwixt Christian
The rapid expression of feeling corrected by the dictates of duty
did not escape the Moslem, who, if he did not entirely understand
all which it conveyed, saw enough to convince him with the
assurance that Christians, as well as Moslemah, had private
feelings of personal pique, and national quarrels, which were not
entirely reconcilable. But the Saracens were a race, polished,
perhaps, to the utmost extent which their religion permitted, and
particularly capable of entertaining high ideas of courtesy and
politeness; and such sentiments prevented his taking any notice
of the inconsistency of Sir Kenneth's feelings in the opposite
characters of a Scot and a Crusader.
Meanwhile, as they advanced, the scene began to change around
them. They were now turning to the eastward, and had reached the
range of steep and barren hills which binds in that quarter the
naked plain, and varies the surface of the country, without
changing its sterile character. Sharp, rocky eminences began to
rise around them, and, in a short time, deep declivities and
ascents, both formidable in height and difficult from the
narrowness of the path, offered to the travellers obstacles of a
different kind from those with which they had recently contended.
Dark caverns and chasms amongst the rocks--those grottoes so
often alluded to in Scripture--yawned fearfully on either side as
they proceeded, and the Scottish knight was informed by the Emir
that these were often the refuge of beasts of prey, or of men
still more ferocious, who, driven to desperation by the constant
war, and the oppression exercised by the soldiery, as well of the
Cross as of the Crescent, had become robbers, and spared neither
rank nor religion, neither sex nor age, in their depredations.
The Scottish knight listened with indifference to the accounts of
ravages committed by wild beasts or wicked men, secure as he felt
himself in his own valour and personal strength; but he was
struck with mysterious dread when he recollected that he was now
in the awful wilderness of the forty days' fast, and the scene of
the actual personal temptation, wherewith the Evil Principle was
permitted to assail the Son of Man. He withdrew his attention
gradually from the light and worldly conversation of the infidel
warrior beside him, and, however acceptable his gay and gallant
bravery would have rendered him as a companion elsewhere, Sir
Kenneth felt as if, in those wildernesses the waste and dry
places in which the foul spirits were wont to wander when
expelled the mortals whose forms they possessed, a bare-footed
friar would have been a better associate than the gay but
These feelings embarrassed him the rather that the Saracen's
spirits appeared to rise with the journey, and because the
farther he penetrated into the gloomy recesses of the mountains,
the lighter became his conversation, and when he found that
unanswered, the louder grew his song. Sir Kenneth knew enough of
the Eastern languages to be assured that he chanted sonnets of
love, containing all the glowing praises of beauty in which the
Oriental poets are so fond of luxuriating, and which, therefore,
were peculiarly unfitted for a serious or devotional strain of
thought, the feeling best becoming the Wilderness of the
Temptation. With inconsistency enough, the Saracen also sung
lays in praise of wine, the liquid ruby of the Persian poets; and
his gaiety at length became so unsuitable to the Christian
knight's contrary train of sentiments, as, but for the promise of
amity which they had exchanged, would most likely have made Sir
Kenneth take measures to change his note. As it was, the
Crusader felt as if he had by his side some gay, licentious
fiend, who endeavoured to ensnare his soul, and endanger his
immortal salvation, by inspiring loose thoughts of earthly
pleasure, and thus polluting his devotion, at a time when his
faith as a Christian and his vow as a pilgrim called on him for a
serious and penitential state of mind. He was thus greatly
perplexed, and undecided how to act; and it was in a tone of
hasty displeasure that, at length breaking silence, he
interrupted the lay of the celebrated Rudpiki, in which he
prefers the mole on his mistress's bosom to all the wealth of
Bokhara and Samarcand.
"Saracen," said the Crusader sternly, "blinded as thou art, and
plunged amidst the errors of a false law, thou shouldst yet
comprehend that there are some places more holy than others, and
that there are some scenes also in which the Evil One hath more
than ordinary power over sinful mortals. I will not tell thee
for what awful reason this place--these rocks--these caverns with
their gloomy arches, leading as it were to the central abyss--are
held an especial haunt of Satan and his angels. It is enough
that I have been long warned to beware of this place by wise and
holy men, to whom the qualities of the unholy region are well
known. Wherefore, Saracen, forbear thy foolish and ill-timed
levity, and turn thy thoughts to things more suited to the spot
--although, alas for thee! thy best prayers are but as blasphemy
The Saracen listened with some surprise, and then replied, with
good-humour and gaiety, only so far repressed as courtesy
required, "Good Sir Kenneth, methinks you deal unequally by your
companion, or else ceremony is but indifferently taught amongst
your Western tribes. I took no offence when I saw you gorge
hog's flesh and drink wine, and permitted you to enjoy a treat
which you called your Christian liberty, only pitying in my heart
your foul pastimes. Wherefore, then, shouldst thou take scandal,
because I cheer, to the best of my power, a gloomy road with a
cheerful verse? What saith the poet, 'Song is like the dews of
heaven on the bosom of the desert; it cools the path of the
"Friend Saracen," said the Christian, "I blame not the love of
minstrelsy and of the GAI SCIENCE; albeit, we yield unto it even
too much room in our thoughts when they should be bent on better
things. But prayers and holy psalms are better fitting than LAIS
of love, or of wine-cups, when men walk in this Valley of the
Shadow of Death, full of fiends and demons, whom the prayers of
holy men have driven forth from the haunts of humanity to wander
amidst scenes as accursed as themselves."
"Speak not thus of the Genii, Christian," answered the Saracen,
"for know thou speakest to one whose line and nation drew their
origin from the immortal race which your sect fear and
"I well thought," answered the Crusader, "that your blinded race
had their descent from the foul fiend, without whose aid you
would never have been able to maintain this blessed land of
Palestine against so many valiant soldiers of God. I speak not
thus of thee in particular, Saracen, but generally of thy people
and religion. Strange is it to me, however, not that you should
have the descent from the Evil One, but that you should boast of
"From whom should the bravest boast of descending, saving from
him that is bravest?" said the Saracen; "from whom should the
proudest trace their line so well as from the Dark Spirit, which
would rather fall headlong by force than bend the knee by his
will? Eblis may be hated, stranger, but he must be feared; and
such as Eblis are his descendants of Kurdistan."
Tales of magic and of necromancy were the learning of the period,
and Sir Kenneth heard his companion's confession of diabolical
descent without any disbelief, and without much wonder; yet not
without a secret shudder at finding himself in this fearful
place, in the company of one who avouched himself to belong to
such a lineage. Naturally insusceptible, however, of fear, he
crossed himself, and stoutly demanded of the Saracen an account
of the pedigree which he had boasted. The latter readily
"Know, brave stranger," he said, "that when the cruel Zohauk, one
of the descendants of Giamschid, held the throne of Persia, he
formed a league with the Powers of Darkness, amidst the secret
vaults of Istakhar, vaults which the hands of the elementary
spirits had hewn out of the living rock long before Adam himself
had an existence. Here he fed, with daily oblations of human
blood, two devouring serpents, which had become, according to the
poets, a part of himself, and to sustain whom he levied a tax of
daily human sacrifices, till the exhausted patience of his
subjects caused some to raise up the scimitar of resistance, like
the valiant Blacksmith and the victorious Feridoun, by whom the
tyrant was at length dethroned, and imprisoned for ever in the
dismal caverns of the mountain Damavend. But ere that
deliverance had taken place, and whilst the power of the
bloodthirsty tyrant was at its height, the band of ravening
slaves whom he had sent forth to purvey victims for his daily
sacrifice brought to the vaults of the palace of Istakhar seven
sisters so beautiful that they seemed seven houris. These seven
maidens were the daughters of a sage, who had no treasures save
those beauties and his own wisdom. The last was not sufficient
to foresee this misfortune, the former seemed ineffectual to
prevent it. The eldest exceeded not her twentieth year, the
youngest had scarce attained her thirteenth; and so like were
they to each other that they could not have been distinguished
but for the difference of height, in which they gradually rose in
easy gradation above each other, like the ascent which leads to
the gates of Paradise. So lovely were these seven sisters when
they stood in the darksome vault, disrobed of all clothing saving
a cymar of white silk, that their charms moved the hearts of
those who were not mortal. Thunder muttered, the earth shook,
the wall of the vault was rent, and at the chasm entered one
dressed like a hunter, with bow and shafts, and followed by six
others, his brethren. They were tall men, and, though dark, yet
comely to behold; but their eyes had more the glare of those of
the dead than the light which lives under the eyelids of the
living. 'Zeineb,' said the leader of the band--and as he spoke
he took the eldest sister by the hand, and his voice was soft,
low, and melancholy--'I am Cothrob, king of the subterranean
world, and supreme chief of Ginnistan. I and my brethren are of
those who, created out of the pure elementary fire, disdained,
even at the command of Omnipotence, to do homage to a clod of
earth, because it was called Man. Thou mayest have heard of us
as cruel, unrelenting, and persecuting. It is false. We are by
nature kind and generous; only vengeful when insulted, only cruel
when affronted. We are true to those who trust us; and we have
heard the invocations of thy father, the sage Mithrasp, who
wisely worships not alone the Origin of Good, but that which is
called the Source of Evil. You and your sisters are on the eve
of death; but let each give to us one hair from your fair
tresses, in token of fealty, and we will carry you many miles
from hence to a place of safety, where you may bid defiance to
Zohauk and his ministers.' The fear of instant death, saith the
poet, is like the rod of the prophet Haroun, which devoured all
other rods when transformed into snakes before the King of
Pharaoh; and the daughters of the Persian sage were less apt than
others to be afraid of the addresses of a spirit. They gave the
tribute which Cothrob demanded, and in an instant the sisters
were transported to an enchanted castle on the mountains of
Tugrut, in Kurdistan, and were never again seen by mortal eye.
But in process of time seven youths, distinguished in the war and
in the chase, appeared in the environs of the castle of the
demons. They were darker, taller, fiercer, and more resolute
than any of the scattered inhabitants of the valleys of
Kurdistan; and they took to themselves wives, and became fathers
of the seven tribes of the Kurdmans, whose valour is known
throughout the universe."
The Christian knight heard with wonder the wild tale, of which
Kurdistan still possesses the traces, and, after a moment's
thought, replied, "Verily, Sir Knight, you have spoken well
--your genealogy may be dreaded and hated, but it cannot be
contemned. Neither do I any longer wonder at your obstinacy in a
false faith, since, doubtless, it is part of the fiendish
disposition which hath descended from your ancestors, those
infernal huntsmen, as you have described them, to love falsehood
rather than truth; and I no longer marvel that your spirits
become high and exalted, and vent themselves in verse and in
tunes, when you approach to the places encumbered by the haunting
of evil spirits, which must excite in you that joyous feeling
which others experience when approaching the land of their human
"By my father's beard, I think thou hast the right," said the
Saracen, rather amused than offended by the freedom with which
the Christian had uttered his reflections; "for, though the
Prophet (blessed be his name!) hath sown amongst us the seed of a
better faith than our ancestors learned in the ghostly halls of
Tugrut, yet we are not willing, like other Moslemah, to pass
hasty doom on the lofty and powerful elementary spirits from whom
we claim our origin. These Genii, according to our belief and
hope, are not altogether reprobate, but are still in the way of
probation, and may hereafter be punished or rewarded. Leave we
this to the mollahs and the imaums. Enough that with us the
reverence for these spirits is not altogether effaced by what we
have learned from the Koran, and that many of us still sing, in
memorial of our fathers' more ancient faith, such verses as
So saying, he proceeded to chant verses, very ancient in the
language and structure, which some have thought derive their
source from the worshippers of Arimanes, the Evil Principle.
Dark Ahriman, whom Irak still
Holds origin of woe and ill!
When, bending at thy shrine,
We view the world with troubled eye,
Where see we 'neath the extended sky,
An empire matching thine!
If the Benigner Power can yield
A fountain in the desert field,
Where weary pilgrims drink;
Thine are the waves that lash the rock,
Thine the tornado's deadly shock,
Where countless navies sink!
Or if he bid the soil dispense
Balsams to cheer the sinking sense,
How few can they deliver
From lingering pains, or pang intense,
Red Fever, spotted Pestilence,
The arrows of thy quiver!
Chief in Man's bosom sits thy sway,
And frequent, while in words we pray
Before another throne,
Whate'er of specious form be there,
The secret meaning of the prayer
Is, Ahriman, thine own.
Say, hast thou feeling, sense, and form,
Thunder thy voice, thy garments storm,
As Eastern Magi say;
With sentient soul of hate and wrath,
And wings to sweep thy deadly path,
And fangs to tear thy prey?
Or art thou mix'd in Nature's source,
An ever-operating force,
Converting good to ill;
An evil principle innate,
Contending with our better fate,
And, oh! victorious still?
Howe'er it be, dispute is vain.
On all without thou hold'st thy reign,
Nor less on all within;
Each mortal passion's fierce career,
Love, hate, ambition, joy, and fear,
Thou goadest into sin.
Whene'er a sunny gleam appears,
To brighten up our vale of tears,
Thou art not distant far;
'Mid such brief solace of our lives,
Thou whett'st our very banquet-knives
To tools of death and war.
Thus, from the moment of our birth,
Long as we linger on the earth,
Thou rulest the fate of men;
Thine are the pangs of life's last hour,
And--who dare answer?--is thy power,
Dark Spirit! ended THEN?
[The worthy and learned clergyman by whom this species of hymn
has been translated desires, that, for fear of misconception, we
should warn the reader to recollect that it is composed by a
heathen, to whom the real causes of moral and physical evil are
unknown, and who views their predominance in the system of the
universe as all must view that appalling fact who have not the
benefit of the Christian revelation. On our own part, we beg to
add, that we understand the style of the translator is more
paraphrastic than can be approved by those who are acquainted
with the singularly curious original. The translator seems to
have despaired of rendering into English verse the flights of
Oriental poetry; and, possibly, like many learned and ingenious
men, finding it impossible to discover the sense of the original,
he may have tacitly substituted his own.]
These verses may perhaps have been the not unnatural effusion of
some half-enlightened philosopher, who, in the fabled deity,
Arimanes, saw but the prevalence of moral and physical evil; but
in the ears of Sir Kenneth of the Leopard they had a different
effect, and, sung as they were by one who had just boasted
himself a descendant of demons, sounded very like an address of
worship to the arch-fiend himself. He weighed within himself
whether, on hearing such blasphemy in the very desert where Satan
had stood rebuked for demanding homage, taking an abrupt leave of
the Saracen was sufficient to testify his abhorrence; or whether
he was not rather constrained by his vow as a Crusader to defy
the infidel to combat on the spot, and leave him food for the
beasts of the wilderness, when his attention was suddenly caught
by an unexpected apparition.
The light was now verging low, yet served the knight still to
discern that they two were no longer alone in the desert, but
were closely watched by a figure of great height and very thin,
which skipped over rocks and bushes with so much agility as,
added to the wild and hirsute appearance of the individual,
reminded him of the fauns and silvans, whose images he had seen
in the ancient temples of Rome. As the single-hearted
Scottishman had never for a moment doubted these gods of the
ancient Gentiles to be actually devils, so he now hesitated not
to believe that the blasphemous hymn of the Saracen had raised
up an infernal spirit.
"But what recks it?" said stout Sir Kenneth to himself; "down
with the fiend and his worshippers!"
He did not, however, think it necessary to give the same warning
of defiance to two enemies as he would unquestionably have
afforded to one. His hand was upon his mace, and perhaps the
unwary Saracen would have been paid for his Persian poetry by
having his brains dashed out on the spot, without any reason
assigned for it; but the Scottish Knight was spared from
committing what would have been a sore blot in his shield of
arms. The apparition, on which his eyes had been fixed for some
time, had at first appeared to dog their path by concealing
itself behind rocks and shrubs, using those advantages of the
ground with great address, and surmounting its irregularities
with surprising agility. At length, just as the Saracen paused
in his song, the figure, which was that of a tall man clothed in
goat-skins, sprung into the midst of the path, and seized a rein
of the Saracen's bridle in either hand, confronting thus and
bearing back the noble horse, which, unable to endure the manner
in which this sudden assailant pressed the long-armed bit, and
the severe curb, which, according to the Eastern fashion, was a
solid ring of iron, reared upright, and finally fell backwards on
his master, who, however, avoided the peril of the fall by
lightly throwing himself to one side.
The assailant then shifted his grasp from the bridle of the horse
to the throat of the rider, flung himself above the struggling
Saracen, and, despite of his youth and activity kept him
undermost, wreathing his long arms above those of his prisoner,
who called out angrily, and yet half-laughing at the same time
--"Hamako--fool--unloose me--this passes thy privilege--unloose
me, or I will use my dagger."
"Thy dagger!--infidel dog!" said the figure in the goat-skins,
"hold it in thy gripe if thou canst!" and in an instant he
wrenched the Saracen's weapon out of its owner's hand, and
brandished it over his head.
"Help, Nazarene!" cried Sheerkohf, now seriously alarmed; "help,
or the Hamako will slay me."
"Slay thee!" replied the dweller of the desert; "and well hast
thou merited death, for singing thy blasphemous hymns, not only
to the praise of thy false prophet, who is the foul fiend's
harbinger, but to that of the Author of Evil himself."
The Christian Knight had hitherto looked on as one stupefied, so
strangely had this rencontre contradicted, in its progress and
event, all that he had previously conjectured. He felt, however,
at length, that it touched his honour to interfere in behalf of
his discomfited companion, and therefore addressed himself to the
victorious figure in the goat-skins.
"Whosoe'er thou art," he said, "and whether of good or of evil,
know that I am sworn for the time to be true companion to the
Saracen whom thou holdest under thee; therefore, I pray thee to
let him arise, else I will do battle with thee in his behalf."
"And a proper quarrel it were," answered the Hamako, "for a
Crusader to do battle in--for the sake of an unbaptized dog, to
combat one of his own holy faith! Art thou come forth to the
wilderness to fight for the Crescent against the Cross? A goodly
soldier of God art thou to listen to those who sing the praises
Yet, while he spoke thus, he arose himself, and, suffering the
Saracen to rise also, returned him his cangiar, or poniard.
"Thou seest to what a point of peril thy presumption hath brought
thee," continued he of the goat-skins, now addressing Sheerkohf,
"and by what weak means thy practised skill and boasted agility
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