Gateway to the Classics: Historic Poems and Ballads by Rupert S. Holland
Historic Poems and Ballads by  Rupert S. Holland

Bruce and the Spider

T HIS 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.

Bruce and the Spider

by Bernard Barton

For 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.

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