A Poem in Sixteen Books
Eleanor Anne Porden,
Author of “The Veils,” “The Arctic Expeditions,” and Other Poems
Richard that robb’d the Lion of His Heart,
And fought the Holy Wars in Palestine.
To His Most Excellent Majesty George the Fourth,
King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland,
&c. &c. &c.
The Enlightened Patron and Protector of English Literature,
This Poem Is, with His Majesty’s Most Gracious Permission,
Humbly Inscribed by His Majesty’s Most Dutiful and Devoted Servant,
Eleanor Anne Роrden
Ruler of a happy Land!
England’s far-descended King!
Sprung from Him whose dreadful band
Fought beneath the Raven’s wing:
Whom his Cimbrian galleys bore
To found on Neustria’s yielding shore,
Beneath serener skies, a wider reign;
Till, slighting realms so cheaply won,
His brave Descendant launch’d anew, to gain
Fair Albion for his Bride, and fill her Island Throne.
Sprung from those whom Britain’s call
Summon’d in an earlier age.
When her violated wall
Felt the Pictish spoiler’s rage—
Soon a milder, purer creed,
Changed to white their sablе steed:
Soon in one orb the sevenfold гаys combined;
Her vanquish’d foes confest the flame,
And England with her budding laurels twined
Beyond the reach of Time, the wreath of Alfred’s fame.
Mourn not, if their mutual force
Oft the plains in crimson dyed;
If the Saxon’s generous Horse
Stoop’d beneath the Lion’s pride.
Thus two mountain springs descend,
Thus their meeting waves contend:
Long the fierce waters foam, and clash, and roar,
Till to their strife the channel yields,
Green turf and fragrant blossoms clothe the shore,
And the broad tranquil stream spreads plenty through the fields.
With the broomy garland crown’d
See the conquering Henry shine!
Plantagenet! that lofty sound,
Blends the boast of either line,
See the Silver Cross display’d
O’er th’ impetuous Richard’s head!
On Syria’s holy plains, to win or bleed,
Pours his devoted host along,
While he, triumphant on his Cyprian steed,
Scatters like morning clouds the misbelieving throng.
Monarch! him I dare to sing!
Him! thy kindred Henry’s son.
From his gallant warriors spring
They who late thy battles won.
England now, from fields of strife
Guards her Sovereign’s sacred life.
Yet still aloft her star of glory shines;
For He that late her Trident bore,
And he to whom thy hand her Sword consigns,
Shall mate with Arthur’s peers, and Richard’s knights of yore.
Though no Cross their bosoms seal’d,
Their march no mail-clad Prelates led;
Sacred be each laurell’d field!
In a hallow’d cause they bled.
England’s thunders swept the sеа That her brethren might be free;
Nor for herself were fruitful regions gain’d:
She the trampled fought to raise,
And of a rescued world alone retain’d
The honour of the strife, th’ imperishable praise.
Beneath Italia’s purple heaven
Two gifted Sons of song divine
To Immortality have given
Thy parent Esté’s princely line;
And ever when pale Cynthia pours
Her radiance on its summer shores,
Along the Adriatic’s listening waves
Still sings the merry gondolier;
His glistening oar to Roland’s glory laves,
Or with Rinaldo woos some new Armida’s car.
Long may they sing—but shall not He
Whom England proudly calls her own,
Whose deeds of song and chivalry
Once gave new lustre to her throne,
One mellifluous strain inspire,
Or rouse one warrior’s latent fire;
Even as Himself could erst the gales invite
To waft his bark to Syrian plains,
Or call’d indignant from Trivallis’ height
His lingering peers to loose their King’s ignoble chains?
Say not Chivalry is dead;
That her spirit charms no more—
Noble souls still love to tread
Paths of legendary lore:
She speaks from every craggy steep,
Yet crown’d with some embattled keep,
Or stream that lave the Convent’s ruin’d cells,
And in the Minster’s aisles of pride,
Still many a sculptured Hero proudly tells.
For her he bravely fought, for Heaven and England died.
She lives, while England is a name,
While native in her sons shall spring
That heaven-born zeal, that loyal flame
Which binds her People to her King
That zeal all selfish thoughts above
Which lives but in its country’s love.
Which seeks for Honour in the front of war,
Which, as it stamps the Tyrant’s doom,
Spreads with her rule the light of Truth afar;
While Justice guides her sword, and Virtue guards her home.
Monarch, hold that spirit dear!
Prize the Muse that gives it fame!
So, to some future Sovereign’s ear
Shall Bards unborn thy worth proclaim,
Or pausing on thy Father’s reign,
Own their loftiest numbers vain,
To picture one in every virtue blest;
Who firm amid the tempest stood,
Friend of the friendless, Champion of th’ opprest,
Thine and thy People’s Sire—the Glorious and the Good!
Or how thine own majestic hand,
Ending works so well begun,
Led to an exulting land,
Peace, by noble daring won.
Which long—but let not man presume
To lift the veil of years to come,
Suffice it that Eternal Wisdom sways.—
That we to Heaven our eyes may cast,
For present good our grateful anthems raise
And wish that future years may but reflect the past.
To Thee, of Arts and Song the Friend,
Fearless the Bard her tribute bears,
With vows for all that Heaven can send
Of lengthen’d reign and prosperous years!
And pardon Her whose minstrelsie
Ambitious dwells on themes so high,
Though haply she in vain the Muse may woo,
And to thy footstool only bring
A heart in every pulse to England true,
True to her equal Laws, her Altar and her King.
The greatness of an enterprize, while it increases the diffidence of an Author, almost destroys the right of apology. If, in attempting to celebrate the heroic achievements of Richard Cœur de Lion in Palestine, and the events of the Third Crusade, I have ventured beyond my strength, I can only say that my fancy was captivated by the chivalrous and romantic spirit which breathes from every page of their history, and that in the wish to see them poetically treated, I forgot my own deficiencies, and also that much of the necessary information was to be derived from sources almost inaccessible to a female.
The character of Richard has, I think, been a little unfairly delineated; and especially as respects his engagement in the Holy War. It is absurd to try the justice or the prudence of the Crusades by the feelings and opinions of the nineteenth century, and it is almost impossible to estimate what were or were not the advantages which Europe ultimately derived from its consequent intercourse with Asia. Every page of our old chronicles bears record of the darkness and ignorance which then enveloped even the most civilized nations of the West. Fanaticism and valour were the ruling spirits of the Middle Ages; and while we deplore the myriads of human victims that were sacrificed for the temporary possession of a narrow territory in Asia, we ought to remember that many of them would otherwise have fallen in feudal and intestine war, and that when the sword of bigotry reposed for a moment from the task of exterminating the followers of Mahommed, it was never without an object of persecution among the heretics of Europe. If Richard drained his kingdom of its bravest warriors and riches treasures to lose them both in Palestine, in a contest which neither advantaged himself nor his realm, we must not forget that it was for the attainment of all which was then believed most precious; in obedience to an authority which he was taught to consider infallible; and to the still stronger voice of universal enthusiasm, which pointed out the pilgrimage to Palestine as the atonement for the greatest crimes; the certain path of salvation. The bravest Princes of Christendom were his comrades and his rivals, and had He only remained in Europe, his contemporaries would not have applauded his prudence, but have reproached him as a coward, and as a traitor to his honour and his God. He has been accused of shewing more of the brutal courage of a soldier, than the skill of a leader; but personal prowess was then esteemed as the noblest quality of a hero, and in that, Richard excelled not only his companions, valiant as they were, but almost all the genuine warriors of antient days, and the Paladins of romance. It was not till after the departure of Philip Augustus from Acre, that Richard became the leader of the Crusaders, and even then each independent chieftain arrayed his followers with more regard to his own interest and glory, than to the common good; yet the march to Arsouf, and the battle of Jaffa, are evidences that he both possessed and could exert the talents of a general; and the brief period of his stay in Palestine is almost the only page of the Crusades which can be read without horror, as it is the only one which is free from distresses and disasters of the most dreadful kind, and brought on by the most childish want of forethought and discipline.
With regard to his personal character. There are but two of the leaders of the Crusades that will bear the test of time. Godfrey of Bouillon, who was equally exemplary as a private soldier, a general, a monarch, and a christian; and Tancred, the perfect model of chivalry. Hume, in his History of England, has stigmatized Richard as a bad son, a bad husband, and a bad king; but let us compare him with his contemporaries. The stains of rebellion, of rapacity, perfidy, and cruelty, are strong upon the names of his brother John, of Alphonso of Arragon, of Leopold of Austria, and Henry the Sixth of Germany. While we condemn his rebellion to his father, let us not forget his provocation and his repentance; as a husband, his history is at least unstained by the cold and inexplicable cruelty with which Philip Augustus treated for a number of years the most beautiful and accomplished Princess of her time; and if the indulgence of his martial genius impoverished his subjects, it endeared him to their hearts, and made the name of Cœur de Lion the pride of England and the terror of Asia, A blind admiration of the Great of former ages, has been so often ridiculed, that we are now apt to run into an opposite extreme; they are like the fossil plants which we sometimes discover far beneath the surface; we know that our soil and atmosphere would not now support them, yet they once flourished there in appropriate use and beauty.
France was the cradle of the Crusades; and we have, till very lately, left it to the French to write their history. It has been remarked that the Monarchs of France and England never fought together in one cause, except at the Siege of Acre; and though the martial achievements and magnificence of Richard be more congenial with the general taste of our Gallic neighbours, than the cool calculating policy of Philip Augustus, it cannot be matter of surprize that this circumstance should have peculiarly excited the feelings of national rivalry, to deepen the darker shades of his character, and to pass lightly over many traits of generosity and magnanimity. The jealousy of his comrades occasioned the Crusade to fail in its principal object of the re-establishment of the kingdom of Jerusalem, and their treachery rendered it a source of misery and civil conflict to England; but I cannot help thinking that had a longer life been permitted to him, he would have triumphed over his enemies, consolidated his power, and in the maturity of years and reflection, would have become one of the greatest monarchs in our annals.
The Latin kingdom of Jerusalem maintained itself not quite one hundred years. Of the multitudes that accompanied Godfrey, few contemplated a permanent expatriation, and when the object of their pilgrimage was accomplished in the redemption of the Sepulchre, they returned to Europe, leaving him to defend it with very inadequate forces. Yet the single year of his reign was a course of victory, and the code of laws which he caused to be compiled, has been considered as the best example of feudal jurisprudence. On his death, his brother Baldwin was called from the principality of Edessa to the vacant throne, and though the territory which he quitted was richer and more extensive than his new dominions; these were advantages not to be compared with the glory of reigning over the Holy City, and he cheerfully resigned his conquest into the hand of his cousin Baldwin du Bourg.
The avarice and ambition of the first Baldwin, had been a source of constant dissension among the Crusaders, and retarded the completion of their enterprize, but from the time of his accession, the brother of Godfrey proved himself not unworthy of his relationship. During a reign of eighteen years, with forces that seemed scarcely sufficient for the defence of his little state, he made it formidable to the Saracens of Syria and Egypt, and increased it to an extent which his successors were unequal to maintain. He died childless, and Jerusalem again looked to Edessa for a ruler, while Baldwin du Bourg, was succeeded in the principality by his cousin, Josceline de Courtenay.
The new king spent nearly the two first years of his reign in captivity among the Infidels; but the honour of his kingdom was maintained by his vassals, and with the assistance of the Venetians, he afterwards captured the important city of Tyre. As he had no son, he determined to chuse among the nobles of Europe a husband for his daughter Melesinda, and an heir to his crown. His choice fell upon Fulk, Count of Anjou; the father, by a former wife, of the House of Plantagenet; and who had already distinguished himself in a pilgrimage to Palestine. Fulk accepted the invitation of Baldwin, who expired after a reign of twelve years; and in him his subjects wept over the last of the companions of Godfrey, in whom they could find no fault, but that he was more of a saint than a hero. About this time arose the Knights Hospitallers, or Knights of St John, and the Knights Templars, afterwards the strongest defence of Jerusalem. But the power of the Christians was already beginning to decline; the virtues of Fulk were esteemed, but his faculties were enfeebled by age, and he left his sceptre to a minor.
The kingdom had hitherto subsisted through the weakness and disunion of the Saracens; they were now beginning to be united under formidable leaders, and in the reign of the Third Baldwin, Edessa was torn from the degenerate heir of Josceline de Courtenay, by Zenghi or Sanguin, Sultan of Aleppo, and his son, the celebrated Noureddin. The news of this disaster revived the enthusiasm of the West. The Emperor Conrad the Third of Germany and Louis the Seventh of France, accompanied by his wife Eleanor of Guyenne, (afterwards married to Henry the Second of England, and mother of Richard and John,) led a force of seven hundred thousand warriors to the Holy Land. More than two-thirds of this immense armament perished through the ignorance and disobedience of its chieftains, the treachery of the Greeks, and the hostility of the Turkish Sultans of Iconium. The remnant besieged Damascus, but their valour was rendered vain by the jealousy of the Syriac Christians; and the Second Crusade was without one glorious action to atone for the appalling waste of human blood, or to vindicate tlie promises and exhortations of St. Bernard, which had tempted such multitudes from the bosom of their families. Soon after, in the midst of a succession of victory, Baldwin the Third died by poison, and was succeeded by his brother Amalric. A brave soldier but an imprudent king, he often purchased peace from the Saracens by the cession of some of the strongest bulwarks of his dominions, and then as foolishly violated the treaty bought so dear, whenever the arrival of a few straggling pilgrims from Europe held out the hope of obtaining some trifling advantage. He suffered himself to be involved in the domestic broils of Egypt, and afterwards sacrificed the interests of his kingdom to the chimerical hope of conquering that rich country.
The wars of Egypt were indeed fatal to Jerusalem, for it was in them that Saladine first learnt the duties of a soldier; and it is remarkable that Noureddin with difficulty compelled into the path of military renown, the man who was shortly after to pluck the sceptre from the hands of his son, and to become one of the greatest monarchs of the East. At his first campaign the unambitious son of Ayoub reluctantly quitted the pleasures pf Damascus, and the toils and perils of war were so little to his taste, that even the distinction which he acquired by the successful defence of Alexandria could not vanquish his disgust; and when the Sultan again ordered him to the banks of the Nile, he went, according to his own confession, with the despair of a man conducted to death. But after he had once fairly tasted the cup of glory his thirst became insatiable. The desire of empire and the triumph of the Koran annihilated every other passion, and the voluptuous youth became remarkable for the simplicity and even austerity of his life. His religious feelings were gratified by the deposition of the heretic Caliph of Саirо, and the restoration of Egypt to the orthodox faith of Islam. During the life of Noureddin, Saladine was contented to govern in his name; but at his death he raised the standard of revolt, won province after province from his children and his emirs, and then advanced to subdue Jerusalem, a city almost equally sacred in the eyes of a Moslem and a Christian. Gibbon has remarked that the successesi of Saladine were prepared by the circumstances of the times, and that he was seldom victorious when opposed by equal forces. It is also worthy of observation that he was unable to sustain the frowns of fortune. The loss of a battle or a friend sunk him into a state of despondency, from which he was only to be roused by the remembrance, that, according to the doctrine of his Prophet, all was predestined, and that it was impious to murmur at the Will of Alla. His character has derived a singular colouring from the mixture of severe devotion to a bigotted and cruel faith, with the feelings of a heart unusually generous and humane.
Jerusalem was a victim ready for sacrifice: Amalric left his crown to his son, a leper and a child, who died just as he was beginning to shew that he possessed talents worthy of dominion. His infant nephew survived him but a few months, and the kingdom, weakened by intestine broils, and exposed to a powerful enemy, remained in the insufficient hands of his sister Sybilla, and her husband, Guy de Lusignan, who had not even the prudence to conciliate those whom he pretended to govern, Or the good faith to observe a treaty with Saladine, which might have delayed for a few years the ruin of his power. He lost his army and his liberty at the battle of Tiberias; and Jerusalem, after a short resistance, submitted to the Soldan. The circumstances of its capitulation, and his generosity to the conquered, are detailed in the notes to the poem. Tyre was soon the only city of Palestine which remained to the Christians, and it was saved from sharing the fate of the rest by the opportune arrival of Conrad of Montferrat, with a few brave followers.
In the mean time the loss of the Holy City spread dismay in Europe. Some years previous, the Patriarch Heraclius had endeavoured to stimulate the potentates of France and England by the recital of its dangers; but the misfortunes of the Second Crusade were not then forgotten, and his intemperate harangues and infamous character were injurious to his cause. The venerable Archbishop of Tyre was more successful; and when he related the sad events of which he was afterwards to write the history, the brave and pious wept at the idea of the Saracens trampling on the Tomb of their Redeemer. Philip Augustus and Richard sheathed on the field of battle the swords which were drawn for mutual warfare, and vied with the Emperor Frederic Barbarossa in their preparations for its rescue. Myriads hastened to take the cross, and to defray the expense of their equipment, the memorable tax of the Dixme Saladine, or the tenth part of their rents and moveables, was imposed on all who remained behind. In the meanwhile the Soldan had released Lusignan from captivity, and as the hatred of Conrad had caused the gates of Tyre to be shut against him, he collected the few friends which still remained to him, and began the siege of Acre. Saladine advanced to its relief; successive bands of Christians, whose less splendid preparations had enabled them to outstrip the three great monarchs of Europe, arrived to reinforce the army of Lusignan, while that of the Soldan was continually recruited from Egypt, Damascus, and Aleppo; and the siege had continued nearly three years at the time when the Poem commences.
In this brief abstract I have merely attempted to recall to the memory of the reader a few of the principal events which preceded the action of the Poem. The recent publication of Mr. Mills’s History of the Crusades, has rendered more minuteness unnecessary. It is needless to say, that in a poem, much of fiction is necessarily blended, but where I have drawn from history, I have endeavoured to be correct For one great anachronism I must throw myself on the mercy of the critic, but it seemed to me otherwise impossible to preserve any unity of story without omitting the most romantic part of Richard’s life.
It only remains for me to express my thanks to those friends who have assisted my labours. To Mr. Gifford, for the benefit which I have derived from his friendly criticism; and to Mr. D’Israeli, and Messrs. Longman and Rees, for the loan of many valuable books.