Post-classical history

§ Brave Men may Hold Unusual Fears

[142] One of the wonders of the human heart is that a man may face certain death and embark upon every danger without his heart quailing from it, and yet he may take fright from something that even boys and women do not fear.

I have seen my uncle, Sultan (may God have mercy upon him) – who was one of the most courageous members of his household, having taken famous stands in battle and struck renowned spear-thrusts – suddenly, upon seeing a mouse, change the expression on his face, become overcome by shudders at the mere sight of it, and take himself away from the place where he saw it.

Among his attendants was a courageous fellow whose name was Sunduq, known for his bravery and audacity. He was so afraid of snakes that he would practically lose his mind. My father (may God have mercy upon him) said to him as he was standing before my uncle, ‘Sunduq, you’re a good man, known for your bravery. Aren’t you ashamed to be so afraid of snakes?’

‘My lord,’ he replied, ‘what’s so surprising about that? In Homs there is a brave man, a hero’s hero, who is scared to death of mice,’ meaning his master.255

And so my uncle (may God have mercy upon him) cursed at him, ‘May God abominate you, you dirty so-and-so!’

I also knew a mamluk belonging to my father (may God have mercy upon him), called Lu’lu’.256 A good man, stalwart fellow. One night I went out from Shayzar, taking with me a large number of mules and other beasts, which I hoped to use to carry some wood that I had cut up in the mountains for a water-wheel that belonged to me. We left the lands surrounding Shayzar, thinking that daybreak was approaching, but we arrived at a village called Dubays before even passing half the night.

So I said, ‘Let’s set up camp. We shouldn’t go into the mountains at night.’

[143] Once we had dismounted and settled in, we heard the neighing of horses.

‘The Franks!’ we said. So we mounted up in the dark, and I told myself that I would put my spear through one of them and take his horse while they were trying to rustle the animals and capture the men who were tending them.

I said to Lu’lu’ and three of the attendants, ‘Go ahead and find out what all that neighing is about.’

They went on ahead at full gallop and met some others, lots of people in quite a crowd. Lu’lu’ was the first to reach them and said, ‘Let’s hear it! Or else I’ll kill you one and all’ – he being an excellent archer.

But they recognized his voice and said, ‘Chamberlain Lu’lu’?’

‘Yes,’ he replied. And what do you know, but they were the army of Hama! They were under the command of the amir Sayf al-Din Sawar257 (may God have mercy upon him), and had made a raid on the lands of the Franks and were on their way back home. Such was this man’s audacity against that crowd. Yet if he should see a snake in his house, he would run out fleeing, saying to his wife, ‘The snake’s all yours!’ And she would have to get up and kill it.

§ The Devil is in the Details

The warrior, even if he is lion-hearted, can be ruined and reduced to impotence by the most trifling impediment, as happened to me before Homs. I rode out, but my horse was killed and I was struck by fifty swords – all through the execution of the divine will and, on top of it, through the sloppiness of my groom in arranging the reins of my bridle. He attached the reins to the rings without sliding them all the way through. So when I pulled on the reins, hoping to escape from the enemy, the reins came undone from the rings and there happened to me what happened.

One day, the alarm was sounded at Shayzar, from the south. We suited up and prepared ourselves. But it [144] was a false alarm. My father and uncle (may God have mercy upon the two of them) went away but I stayed behind. The alarm was then sounded from the north, from the direction of the Franks. I galloped on my horse towards the sound of the alarm and saw our men crossing the ford,258 some riding on the shoulders of the others, shouting, ‘The Franks!’

I crossed the ford and told the men, ‘Don’t worry, I stand between you and the enemy!’ I then galloped up to Rabiyat al-Qaramita and there were the enemy cavalry, advancing in a large body, preceded by a horseman wearing a mail hauberk and a helmet. He was already close to me. So I made straight for him, taking the opportunity to attack some of his comrades after him. He stood ready to receive me. But the moment I spurred my horse on towards him, my stirrup snapped. And there was no way for me to avoid meeting him. So I confronted him without a stirrup. When we got so close to one another that there was nothing to do but thrust our spears about, the horseman greeted me and offered his services to me, for it was none other than Commander259 ‘Umar, the uncle of Commander Zayn al-Din Isma’il. He had gone out with the army of Hama to the territory of Kafartab, where the Franks made a sortie against them. So they returned to Shayzar in flight, led by the amir Sawar (may God have mercy upon him).

Thus, the best course for the warrior to follow is to inspect the tack on his horse frequently. For even the smallest and most insignificant of things can lead to injury and destruction – all that dependent upon the course of fate and destiny.

§ A Lion-Slayer Wounded by a Hyena

I have witnessed the killing of lions on occasions beyond reckoning. A certain number of these I have killed without anyone joining me in the kill and without any sort of injury befalling me.

Yet, one day, I went out on the chase with my father (may God have mercy upon him) on a mountain close to town, hunting partridges with goshawks. My father – and we with him – and the austringers were on top of the mountain, while some attendants and other austringers were at the foot of the mountain for when the hawks released their prey and to locate the birds’ coverts. Suddenly, a female hyena appeared before us and went into a cave. In the cave there was its den, which it entered. So I shouted to an attendant of mine, a groom named Yusuf. He stripped off [145] his clothes, took up his knife and went into that den, while I had a quntariya-spear in my hands pointed at that spot so that if the hyena came out I could strike it.

Suddenly, my attendant shouted, ‘It’s headed out your way!’ So I thrust my spear at it, but missed, as the hyena has a slight body.

Then my attendant shouted, ‘I’ve got another hyena here!’ And it rushed out on the heels of the first.

I stood up and took position at the door of the cave – which was narrow, but about the height of two men – and looked out to see what our companions in the plain were doing about the hyenas that had come down their way. As I was busy looking at the first two, yet a third hyena came rushing out, knocked me over and threw me down from the door of the cave to the surface of the ground, almost breaking me in two. Thus was I injured by a female hyena, yet never hurt by lions. Glory be to He who determines destinies, who sets all things in motion!

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!