BRUCE AND THE SPIDER
by: Bernard Barton (1784-1849)
- OR Scotland's
and for freedom's right
- The Bruce his part has played;--
- In five successive fields of fight
- Been conquered and dismayed:
- Once more against the English host
- His band he led, and once more lost
- The meed for which he fought;
- And now from battle, faint and worn,
- The homeless fugitive, forlorn,
- A hut's lone shelter sought.
- And cheerless was that resting-place
- For him who claimed a throne;--
- His canopy, devoid of grace,
- The rude, rough beams alone;
- The heather couch his only bed--
- Yet well I ween had slumber fled
- From couch of eider down!
- Through darksome night till dawn of day,
- Absorbed in wakeful thought he lay
- Of Scotland and her crown.
- The sun rose brightly, and its gleam
- Fell on that hapless bed,
- And tinged with light each shapeless beam
- Which roofed the lowly shed;
- When, looking up with wistful eye,
- The Bruce beheld a spider try
- His filmy thread to fling
- From beam to beam of that rude cot--
- And well the insect's toilsome lot
- Taught Scotland's future king.
- Six times the gossamery thread
- The wary spider threw;--
- In vain the filmy line was sped,
- For powerless or untrue
- Each aim appeared, and back recoiled
- The patient insect, six times foiled,
- And yet unconquered still;
- And soon the Bruce, with eager eye,
- Saw him prepare once more to try
- His courage, strength, and skill.
- One effort more, his seventh and last!--
- The hero hailed the sign!--
- And on the wished-for beam hung fast
- That slender silken line!
- Slight as it was, his spirit caught
- The more than omen; for his thought
- The lesson well could trace,
- Which even "he who runs may read,"
- That Perseverance gains its meed,
- And Patience wins the race.
POEMS BY BERNARD BARTON
"Bruce and the Spider"
is reprinted from Historic Ballads and Poems. Ed. Rupert
S. Holland. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs & Co., 1912.
This poem tells the legendary story of
how "The Bruce," Robert I, King of Scotland, after
six successive defeats by the English armies, was a fugitive
in a lonely hut, and there saw a spider try six times to cast
his thread from one beam to another and succeed on the seventh
try. Bruce took courage from the spider's perseverance, fought
a seventh time, and won.
Robert Bruce was a great leader of his
people, and from early youth fought against the tyranny of the
English kings. The battle of Bannockburn in 1314 won freedom
for Scotland and at the same time assured the crown to Bruce.
Before that time he had had many rivals for the throne of Scotland,
but after the battle his power over his people became so great
that the parliament of the land unanimously proclaimed him king.
Related poems: Bannockburn,
by Robert Burns.