belated 14c., initially usually during the bay; see bay (n.3). Figurative usage, of humans in troubles, is from c.1400. The phrase reflects the former more extensive usage of inside. Early in the day the phrase be at abai ended up being made use of of this hunted animal, "be struggling to escape," c.1300, from French.
forced to turn and face attackers
Trusted entirely to his sword, yet the heroic struggle of a lifetime had barely sufficed to keep at bay the numerous and potent foes with which Poland was environed.