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THE SIEGE OF GRANADA
EDWARD BULWER LYTTON
THE GREAT BATTLE.
The day slowly dawned upon that awful night; and the Moors, still upon
the battlements of Granada, beheld the whole army of Ferdinand on its
march towards their wails. At a distance lay the wrecks of the blackened
and smouldering camp; while before them, gaudy and glittering pennons
waving, and trumpets sounding, came the exultant legions of the foe. The
Moors could scarcely believe their senses. Fondly anticipating the
retreat of the Christians, after so signal a disaster, the gay and
dazzling spectacle of their march to the assault filled them with
consternation and alarm.
While yet wondering and inactive, the trumpet of Boabdil was heard
behind; and they beheld the Moorish king, at the head of his guards,
emerging down the avenues that led to the gate. The sight restored and
exhilarated the gazers; and, when Boabdil halted in the space before the
portals, the shout of twenty thousand warriors rose ominously to the ears
of the advancing Christians.
“Men of Granada!” said Boabdil, as soon as the deep and breathless
silence had succeeded to that martial acclamation,—”the advance of the
enemy is to their destruction! In the fire of last night the hand of
Allah wrote their doom. Let us forth, each and all! We will leave our
homes unguarded—our hearts shall be their wall! True, that our numbers
are thinned by famine and by slaughter, but enough of us are yet left for
the redemption of Granada. Nor are the dead departed from us: the dead
fight with us—their souls animate our own. He who has lost a brother,
becomes twice a man. On this battle we will set all. Liberty or chains!
empire or exile! victory or death! Forward!”
He spoke, and gave the rein to his barb. It bounded forward, and cleared
the gloomy arch of the portals, and Boabdil el Chico was the first Moor
who issued from Granada, to that last and eventful field. Out, then,
poured, as a river that rushes from caverns into day, the burnished and
serried files of the Moorish cavalry. Muza came the last, closing the
array. Upon his dark and stern countenance there spoke not the ardent
enthusiasm of the sanguine king. It was locked and rigid; and the
anxieties of the last dismal weeks had thinned his cheeks, and ploughed
deep lines around the firm lips and iron jaw which bespoke the obstinate
and unconquerable resolution of his character.
As Muza now spurred forward, and, riding along the wheeling ranks,
marshalled them in order, arose the acclamation of female voices; and the
warriors, who looked back at the sound, saw that their women—their wives
and daughters, their mothers and their beloved (released from their
seclusion, by a policy which bespoke the desperation of the cause)—were
gazing at them, with outstretched arms, from the battlements and towers.
The Moors knew that they were now to fight for their hearths and altars
in the presence of those who, if they failed, became slaves and harlots;
and each Moslem felt his heart harden like the steel of his own sabre.
While the cavalry formed themselves into regular squadrons, and the tramp
of the foemen came more near and near, the Moorish infantry, in
miscellaneous, eager, and undisciplined bands, poured out, until,
spreading wide and deep below the walls, Boabdil’s charger was seen,
rapidly careering amongst them, as, in short but distinct directions, or
fiery adjurations, he sought at once to regulate their movements, and
confirm their hot but capricious valour.
Meanwhile the Christians had abruptly halted; and the politic Ferdinand
resolved not to incur the full brunt of a whole population, in the first
flush of their enthusiasm and despair. He summoned to his side Hernando
del Pulgar, and bade him, with a troop of the most adventurous and
practised horsemen, advance towards the Moorish cavalry, and endeavour to
draw the fiery valour of Muza away from the main army. Then, splitting
up his force into several sections, he dismissed each to different
stations; some to storm the adjacent towers, others to fire the
surrounding gardens and orchards; so that the action might consist rather
of many battles than of one, and the Moors might lose the concentration
and union, which made, at present, their most formidable strength.
Thus, while the Mussulmans were waiting in order for the attack, they
suddenly beheld the main body of the Christians dispersing, and, while
yet in surprise and perplexed, they saw the fires breaking out from their
delicious gardens, to the right and left of the walls, and hear the boom
of the Christian artillery against the scattered bulwarks that guarded
the approaches of that city.
At that moment a cloud of dust rolled rapidly towards the post occupied
in the van by Muza, and the shock of the Christian knights, in their
mighty mail, broke upon the centre of the prince’s squadron.
Higher, by several inches, than the plumage of his companions, waved the
crest of the gigantic del Pulgar; and, as Moor after Moor went down
before his headlong lance, his voice, sounding deep and sepulchral
through his visor, shouted out—”Death to the infidel!”
The rapid and dexterous horsemen of Granada were not, however,
discomfited by this fierce assault: opening their ranks with
extraordinary celerity, they suffered the charge to pass comparatively
harmless through their centre, and then, closing in one long and
bristling line, cut off the knights from retreat. The Christians wheeled
round, and charged again upon their foe.
“Where art thou, O Moslem dog! that wouldst play the lion’?—Where art
thou, Muza Ben Abil Gazan’?”
“Before thee, Christian!” cried a stern and clear voice; and from amongst
the helmets of his people, gleamed the dazzling turban of the Moor.
Hernando checked his steed, gazed a moment at his foe, turned back, for
greater impetus to his charge, and, in a moment more, the bravest
warriors of the two armies met, lance to lance.
The round shield of Muza received the Christian’s weapon; his own spear
shivered, harmless, upon the breast of the giant. He drew his sword,
whirled it rapidly over his head, and, for some minutes, the eyes of the
bystanders could scarcely mark the marvellous rapidity with which strokes
were given and parried by those redoubted swordsmen.
At length, Hernando, anxious to bring to bear his superior strength,
spurred close to Muza; and, leaving his sword pendant by a thong to his
wrist, seized the shield of Muza in his formidable grasp, and plucked it
away, with a force that the Moor vainly endeavoured to resist: Muza,
therefore, suddenly released his bold; and, ere the Spaniard had
recovered his balance (which was lost by the success of his own strength,
put forth to the utmost), he dashed upon him the hoofs of his black
charger, and with a short but heavy mace, which he caught up from the
saddlebow, dealt Hernando so thundering a blow upon the helmet, that the
giant fell to the ground, stunned and senseless.
To dismount, to repossess himself of his shield, to resume his sabre, to
put one knee to the breast of his fallen foe, was the work of a moment;
and then had Don Hernando del Pulgar been sped, without priest or
surgeon, but that, alarmed by the peril of their most valiant comrade,
twenty knights spurred at once to the rescue, and the points of twenty
lances kept the Lion of Granada from his prey. Thither, with similar
speed, rushed the Moorish champions; and the fight became close and
deadly round the body of the still unconscious Christian. Not an instant
of leisure to unlace the helmet of Hernando, by removing which, alone,
the Moorish blade could find a mortal place, was permitted to Muza; and,
what with the spears and trampling hoofs around him, the situation of the
Paynim was more dangerous than that of the Christian. Meanwhile,
Hernando recovered his dizzy senses; and, made aware of his state,
watched his occasion, and suddenly shook off the knee of the Moor. With
another effort he was on his feet and the two champions stood confronting
each other, neither very eager to renew the combat. But on foot, Muza,
daring and rash as he was, could not but recognise his disadvantage
against the enormous strength and impenetrable armour of the Christian.
He drew back, whistled to his barb, that, piercing the ranks of the
horsemen, was by his side on the instant, remounted, and was in the midst
of the foe, almost ere the slower Spaniard was conscious of his
But Hernando was not delivered from his enemy. Clearing a space around
him, as three knights, mortally wounded, fell beneath his sabre, Muza now
drew from behind his shoulder his short Arabian bow, and shaft after
shaft came rattling upon the mail of the dismounted Christian with so
marvellous a celerity, that, encumbered as he was with his heavy
accoutrements, he was unable either to escape from the spot, or ward off
that arrowy rain; and felt that nothing but chance, or Our Lady, could
prevent the death which one such arrow would occasion, if it should find
the opening of the visor, or the joints of the hauberk.
“Mother of Mercy,” groaned the knight, perplexed and enraged, “let not
thy servant be shot down like a hart, by this cowardly warfare; but, if I
must fall, be it with mine enemy, grappling hand to hand.”
While yet muttering this short invocation, the war-cry of Spain was heard
hard by, and the gallant company of Villena was seen scouring across the
plain to the succour of their comrades. The deadly attention of Muza was
distracted from individual foes, however eminent; he wheeled round,
re-collected his men, and, in a serried charge, met the new enemy in
While the contest thus fared in that part of the field, the scheme of
Ferdinand had succeeded so far as to break up the battle in detached
sections. Far and near, plain, grove, garden, tower, presented each the
scene of obstinate and determined conflict. Boabdil, at the head of his
chosen guard, the flower of the haughtier tribe of nobles who were
jealous of the fame and blood of the tribe of Muza, and followed also by
his gigantic Ethiopians, exposed his person to every peril, with the
desperate valour of a man who feels his own stake is greatest in the
field. As he most distrusted the infantry, so amongst the infantry he
chiefly bestowed his presence; and wherever he appeared, he sufficed, for
the moment, to turn the changes of the engagement. At length, at mid-day
Ponce de Leon led against the largest detachment of the Moorish foot a
strong and numerous battalion of the best-disciplined and veteran
soldiery of Spain. He had succeeded in winning a fortress, from which
his artillery could play with effect; and the troops he led were
composed, partly of men flushed with recent triumph, and partly of a
fresh reserve, now first brought into the field. A comely and a
breathless spectacle it was to behold this Christian squadron emerging
from a blazing copse, which they fired on their march; the red light
gleaming on their complete armour, as, in steady and solemn order, they
swept on to the swaying and clamorous ranks of the Moorish infantry.
Boabdil learned the danger from his scouts; and hastily quitting a tower
from which he had for a while repulsed a hostile legion, he threw himself
into the midst of the battalions menaced by the skilful Ponce de Leon.
Almost at the same moment, the wild and ominous apparition of Almamen,
long absent from the eyes of the Moors, appeared in the same quarter, so
suddenly and unexpectedly, that none knew whence he had emerged; the
sacred standard in his left hand—his sabre, bared and dripping gore, in
his right—his face exposed, and its powerful features working with an
excitement that seemed inspired; his abrupt presence breathed a new soul
into the Moors.
“They come! they come!” he shrieked aloud. “The God of the East hath
delivered the Goth into your hands!” From rank to rank—from line to
line—sped the santon; and, as the mystic banner gleamed before the
soldiery, each closed his eyes and muttered an “amen” to his adjurations.
And now, to the cry of “Spain and St. Iago,” came trampling down the
relentless charge of the Christian war. At the same instant, from the
fortress lately taken by Ponce de Leon, the artillery opened upon the
Moors, and did deadly havoc. The Moslems wavered a moment when before
them gleamed the white banner of Almamen; and they beheld him rushing,
alone and on foot, amidst the foe. Taught to believe the war itself
depended on the preservation of the enchanted banner, the Paynims could
not see it thus rashly adventured without anxiety and shame: they
rallied, advanced firmly, and Boabdil himself, with waving cimiter and
fierce exclamations, dashed impetuously at the head of his guards and
Ethiopians into the affray. The battle became obstinate and bloody.
Thrice the white banner disappeared amidst the closing ranks; and thrice,
like a moon from the clouds, it shone forth again—the light and guide of
the Pagan power.
The day ripened; and the hills already cast lengthening shadows over the
blazing groves and the still Darro, whose waters, in every creek where
the tide was arrested, ran red with blood, when Ferdinand, collecting his
whole reserve, descended from the eminence on which hitherto he had
posted himself. With him moved three thousand foot and a thousand horse,
fresh in their vigour, and panting for a share in that glorious day. The
king himself, who, though constitutionally fearless, from motives of
policy rarely perilled his person, save on imminent occasions, was
resolved not to be outdone by Boabdil; and armed cap-a-pied in mail, so
wrought with gold that it seemed nearly all of that costly metal, with
his snow-white plumage waving above a small diadem that surmounted his
lofty helm, he seemed a fit leader to that armament of heroes. Behind
him flaunted the great gonfanon of Spain, and trump and cymbal heralded
his approach. The Count de Tendilla rode by his side.
“Senor,” said Ferdinand, “the infidels fight hard; but they are in the
snare—we are about to close the nets upon them. But what cavalcade is
The group that thus drew the king’s attention consisted of six squires,
bearing, on a martial litter, composed of shields, the stalwart form of
Hernando del Pulgar.
“Ah, the dogs!” cried the king, as he recognised the pale features of the