Scottish Poetry Selection
- Bruce and the Spider
Bernard Barton (1784 - 1849) was born of Quaker parentage and passed nearly all his life at Woodbridge, for the most part as a clerk in a bank. Although he has no known genealogical connection with Scotland, one of the poems he wrote concerned the story of Robert the Bruce and the motivation provided by a spider, to continue with his fight against the English who were occupying Scotland. As all Scottish schoolchildren used to know: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again."
Bruce and the SpiderFor 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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