Having finally broken in to Antioch and taking the city with fire and murder the Crusaders then found themselves, within a day, surrounded by a far superior Saracen force. They went, within twenty-four hours, from being besiegers to being besieged. The Saracen siege was bitter and almost led to the Crusaders capitulating but after several “holy visions” from within the Crusader army they took to the field in desperation to give battle against a force approximately four times their size.
Weak from hunger and thirst, riddled with dysentery, lacking horses to such an extent that most of the nobles fought on foot, the Crusaders managed to win a stunning victory and routed the besieging army with much slaughter and pillage of the Saracen baggage train and tents.
On finding the wives and concubines of the Saracen captains, the crusaders massacred the women with lances but proudly announced that the women had been “merely killed but not first dishonoured.”
*I am deeply indebted to the work of the academic and historian Thomas Asbridge for the amazing detail and clarity of narrative within his own work which has significantly informed my writing of these poems. Any and all mistakes, flights of fancy or poetic license taking are entirely mine.*
Thinned out by hunger, thirst, disease, desertion and death
we became one third of what we were before,
yet still we smashed a Saracen horde
on the rolling ground beneath the walls
of a city we so desired to have
that we spoke of it in terms of love.
Now lean, feral, ferocious, we were
an iron hand in a chain-mail glove,
no longer draped in homespun and motley
we wore clothing and armour, battlefield looted,
that sweaty, sweet, dead man smell
replaced with our own wolf like musk.
On finding the tents of the Saracen women
we put them all to the point of a lance,
though we did not dishonour them
And Jerusalem called to us, onwards, onwards, always onwards,
God’s will, God’s will, God’s will.