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.

"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.


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