Thursday, August 2, 2007

The King in the Heather

1306, had been a disaster for the Robert; his wife and daughter were captives of the English, his brother Nigel and many of his followers had met the same fate as Wallace.
The King himself was on the run, a fugitive from the English administration and a “blood enemy” of the Comyns, and their allies, arguably the most powerful party in Scotland.
Not the most auspicious start to a reign.

1307: However, inspired by the famous spider Robert returned to his lands in Carrick, early in 1307, determined to retake his Kingdom. He sent his brothers Thomas and Alexander to Galloway, but they were quickly defeated and killed. He survived several difficult months, but events were about to turn in his and Scotland’s favour

Robert and the Spider

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.

By: Bernard Barton (1784-1849)

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