Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Of Kings and Spiders

“A man is a very small thing, and the night is very large and full of wonders.”
-Lord Dunsany

Some years ago Spouse and I attended a dinner at the home of a friend, to which another couple were also invited. Spouse knew the two slightly, I not at all but we had a marvellous time getting to know one another.
In the course of the drive home, as we discussed the evening that had passed, Spouse insisted on referring to somebody called Robert. As I had not been aware of any Robert in connection with the conversation we were having, I quizzed Spouse.
"Robert- who we met tonight!" Spouse was astonished that I could forget.
"Robert?" I said. "But his name is Bruce."
Spouse glanced at me in dismay. The two names were not, of course, in the least alike.
We both fell silent in the grim and puzzling aftermath of such an error.
After a while I said, "I wonder if you were thinking of the fourteenth century King of Scotland?"
Spouse must have indeed thought I had gone mad, until I continued, "Robert the Bruce."
Spouse certainly knew who Robert the Bruce was: a brave fellow who had led several notable rebellions in efforts to free Scotland from English rule. The legend tells that he was on the run and had been in hiding in a cave, swiftly losing faith in his ability to succeed in his mission. One day he looked up to see a poor struggling spider. The creature made, so we are told, seven failed attempts to spin a web and climb upward- it fell to the ground every time.
On the eighth try, however, the spider, in one last valiant effort, achieved a personal victory and made its way to the top of the cave.
It is often claimed that that was the moment Robert the Bruce regained his courage and confidence, determined not to give up, and was the catalyst for his subsequent victory in a particular battle. I was taught that story in my early schooldays and have remembered it always. It is just the same for Spouse.
After a moment's thought, Spouse concluded with a good measure of awe that he must, in the furthest recesses of his mind, have been thinking of Robert the Bruce. At the time we knew of nobody else called Bruce, and nobody called Robert, and only one man named Robert the Bruce.
The wondering, wandering mind reads like a deep mystery at times, and from time to time catches us by surprise with its cobwebbed corners.


Tom the Piper's Son said...

AAhh the mind of youth! I remember that story too as a kid. I'm taking your post as a reminder for me to persist in what needs to be persisted in now!
Thank You!

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Tom, I'm so glad to hear this, that you were inspired. Take a leaf out of Robert the Bruce's book and seize the day ;) Spiders are good for something after all.

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