Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Heart of King Robert Bruce

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV. 1876–79.

Introductory to Spain

The Heart of King Robert Bruce

By Lydia Huntley Sigourney (1791–1865)

KING ROBERT bore with gasping breath

The strife of mortal pain,

And, gathering round the couch of death,

His nobles mourned in vain.

Bathed were his brows in chilling dew

As thus he faintly cried,

“Red Comyn in his sins I slew

At the high altar’s side.

“For this a vow my soul hath bound

In armed lists to ride,

A warrior to that Holy Ground

Where my Redeemer died:

Lord James of Douglas, see! we part!

I die before my time,

I charge thee bear this pulseless heart

A pilgrim to that clime.”

He ceased, for lo! in close pursuit,

With fierce and fatal strife,

He came, who treads with icy foot

Upon the lamp of life.

The brave Earl Douglas, trained to meet

Dangers and perils wild,

Now kneeling at his sovereign’s feet

Wept as a weaned child.

Beneath Dunfirmline’s hallowed nave,

Enwrapt in cloth of gold,

The Bruce’s relics found a grave

Deep in their native mould;

But locked within its silver vase,

Next to Lord James’s breast,

His heart went journeying on apace,

In Palestine to rest.

While many a noble Scottish knight,

With sable shield and plume,

Rode as its guard in armor bright

To kiss their Saviour’s tomb.

As on the scenery of Spain

They bent a traveller’s eye,

Forth came in bold and glorious train,

Her flower of chivalry.

Led by Alphonso ’gainst the Moor,

They came in proud array,

And set their serried phalanx sure

To bide the battle-fray.

“God save ye now, ye gallant band

Of Scottish warriors true,

Good service for the Holy Land

Ye on this field may do.”

So with the cavalry of Spain

In brother’s grasp they closed,

And the grim Saracen in vain

Their blended might opposed;

But Douglas, with his falcon-glance

O’erlooking crest and spear,

Saw brave St. Clair with broken lance,

That friend from childhood dear.

He saw him by a thousand foes

Opprest and overborne,

And high the blast of rescue rose

From his good bugle-horn;

And reckless of the Moorish spears

In bristling ranks around,

His monarch’s heart oft steeped in tears

He from his neck unbound,

And flung it toward the battle front,

And cried with panting breath,

“Pass first, my liege, as thou wert wont,—

I follow thee to death.”

Stern Osmyn’s sword was dire that day,

And keen the Moorish dart,

And there Earl Douglas bleeding lay

Beside the Bruce’s heart.

Embalmed with Scotland’s flowing tears,

That peerless champion fell,

And still the lyre to future years

His glorious deeds shall tell.

The “good Lord James” that honored name

Each Scottish babe shall call,

And all who love the Bruce’s fame

Shall mourn the Douglas’ fall.