The Bridge Builder

The Bridge Builder

by Will Allen Dromgoole

An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!

Summary of The Bridge Builder

  • Popularity of “The Bridge Builder”: This poem was written by Will Allen Dromgoole, a famous author and poet. ‘The Bridge Builder’ is popular for its theme of a builder who builds bridges for the future generation.  The poem was first published in 1900 in A Builder. This poem comprises the unselfish and caring attributes of an old man who tries to save the upcoming generation from obstacles. It also traces the connection between the young and old generation.
  • “The Bridge Builder” As a Representative of Care: This poem shows an old man who shows his concern for his generation. The old man, while crossing a swift-moving river, sees a tide that can create trouble for the people coming after him. After crossing the river, he decides to construct the bridge to save travelers from danger. While the old man is constructing the bridge, a fellow traveler comes along and asks the reason for his hard work. To him, the old man has already crossed the river. Hence, he feels that the old man is wasting his time and efforts on it. To his surprise, the old man answers that it is a kind gesture for those who are on their way to get across the water.  Being experienced, he has easily passed the chasm, unharmed, but the inexperienced young generations may fail to do so. Therefore, he is paving the way for them, and this act shows his generosity and concern for the future generation. Also, the bridge represents his love, and it will stay there even when the old man is gone.
  • Major Themes in “The Bridge Builder”: Care, confidence and hard work are the major themes of this beautiful literary piece. The poem gives the message of unselfishness and generosity. The poem refers to an old man, who builds a bridge to pave the way for those who are crossing the river later. This little effort would help them bypass the obstacles he had faced in the same way. The old man struggles to build a bridge and shape a better future for the next generation.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “The Bridge Builder”

Literary devices are tools used by writers to enhance the meanings of their texts. It also allows readers to interpret a text in multiple ways. Will Allen Dromgoole has also employed some literary devices in this poem to show the efforts of an old man. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been given below.

  • Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /o/ in “An old man going a lone highway”.
  • Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /d/ in “The builder lifted his old gray head”.
  • Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “The old man crossed in the twilight dim”; “The builder lifted his old gray head” and “And built a bridge to span the tide.”
  • Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession such as the sound of /s/ and /f/ in “The sullen stream had no fear for him” and the sound of /b/ in “Why build this bridge at evening tide”.
  • Enjambment: It is defined as a thought or clause that does not come to an end at a line break instead moves over the next line. For example,

“But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.”

  • Symbolism: Symbolism is a use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities to symbolic meaning different from their literal meanings. “Bridge” is the symbol of ease and comfort and “chasm” symbolizes difficulty.
  • Hyperbole: Hyperbole is a device used to exaggerate a statement for the sake of emphasis. For example, “Your journey will end with the ending day” as if the traveler is sure about his journey.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “The Bridge Builder”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  • Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are two eight-lined stanzas and a six lines stanza in this poem.
  • Rhyme Scheme: The rhyme scheme followed by the entire poem is ABAB.
  • End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. The poet has used end rhyme in this poem to make it appealing such as, “head/said”; “dim/him” and “wide/tide”.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below can be used to narrate a story to show the importance of securing the future of the next generation. These could also be used for children as an example while teaching them the ethics of struggle.

“To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;”