Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VIII. National Spirit
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VIII. National Spirit.  1904.
 
III. War
Bruce and the Spider
Bernard Barton (1784–1849)
 
[About 1307]

FOR Scotland’s and for freedom’s right
  The Bruce his part had played,
In five successive fields of fight
  Been conquered and dismayed;
Once more against the English host        5
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.        10
 
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,—        15
Yet well I ween had slumber fled
  From couch of eider-down!
Through darksome night till dawn of day,
Absorbed in wakeful thoughts he lay
  Of Scotland and her crown.        20
 
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,        25
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.        30
 
Six times his gossamery thread
  The wary spider threw;
In vain the filmy line was sped,
  For powerless or untrue
Each aim appeared, and back recoiled        35
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.        40
 
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        45
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.        50
 
 
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