The Builders

The Builders

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme.

Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.

For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.

Truly shape and fashion these;
Leave no yawning gaps between;
Think not, because no man sees,
Such things will remain unseen.

In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere.

Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where Gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean.

Else our lives are incomplete,
Standing in these walls of Time,
Broken stairways, where the feet
Stumble as they seek to climb.

Build to-day, then, strong and sure,
With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall to-morrow find its place.

Thus alone can we attain
To those turrets, where the eye
Sees the world as one vast plain,
And one boundless reach of sky.

Summary of The Builders

  • Popularity of “The Builders”: Written by Henry Wardsworth Longfellow, a popular American poet, this short poem with big themes first appeared in 1922 and set the stage for poems about individuality. This poem shows how nations rely on individuals who make up the great social structure. In fact, it asserts that every individual in a society is a pillar on whom the building of the nation stands. Therefore, every person is a builder in a sense. This becomes a focal point for the popularity of the poem.
  • “The Builders” As a Representative of Individuality: The poet presents a speaker who asserts that every person in a society counts. In fact, he presents the comparison of a nation or a society with a piece of architecture and argues that like every piece in a building or a social structure relies on every individual. Some are great and some are not. Some are leaders, while some are writers, and each has his own work to execute. It used to happen in the old days and it will continue to happen in the future when nations continue to rely on every individual. The reason is every individual works for the glory of the nation or the society in which he lives. Some may have great portfolios, while some may have a hidden one; but all of them work together to make the nation touch the sky. Therefore, there is stress on the individuality of a person.
  • Major Themes in “The Builders”: Individuality, the glory of a nation, and the integration of time, art, and architecture are some of the major themes of the poem “The Builders.” The poet emphasized this individuality in the very first stanza when he says that “All are architects of Fate.” The stress is not only on individuals but also the Fate of that very individual as well as of the whole nation or the state in which they happen to live.
    However, it is the task that makes the person great and wins glory for their nation. It happens in the state as time makes people work together or in arts, every element counts very much. The same is the case of architecture in which every part helps the building to stand on it. Therefore, he has called the individuals builders of the nations though some work in the open and others behind the covers. This greatness and greatness of achievements is likely to happen with such great individuals who intend to reach the sky.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in The Builders

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow uses various literary devices in a skillful way. Some of the major literary devices he uses to demonstrate his skill are as follows.

  1. Allusion: It means a reference of religious, social, historical, or literary significance to stress upon the idea. The poet has used a religious allusion such as God.
  2. Anaphora: It is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is repeated in the beginning of the verses. The poem shows the use of “Some with” as an anaphora.
  3. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /i/ in “Each thing in its place is best” and /o/ in “Let us do our work as well.”
  4. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession, such as the sound of /w/ in “with which.”
  5. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /m/ in “With a firm and ample base” and the sound of /s/ in “And ascending and secure.”
  6. Enjambment: It is a device in which a verse continues with the other verse without a pause or the use of a punctuation mark, such as;

Thus alone can we attain
To those turrets, where the eye
Sees the world as one vast plain,
And one boundless reach of sky.

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow used images such as “Else our lives are incomplete”, “Stumble as they seek to climb” and “To those turrets, where the eye.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects that are different in nature. The poet has used different metaphors to point out the significance of an individual. They include building, time, and a piece of art as each has building blocks and parts like individuals.
  3. Paradox: It means to use contradictory words in a single statement. The poem shows the use of a paradox, such as “Both the unseen and the seen.” Here unseen and seen are contradictory ideas or words.
  4. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols, such as time, fate, deed, rhyme, fashion, and shape to show the work of an individual and stress upon the theme of individuality.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in The Builders

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

  1. Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows very good use of formal and poetic with a special impact on melody.
  2. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow uses end rhyme in this poem such as Fate/great and Time/rhyme.
  3. Quatrain: It is a Persian stanza having four verses. The poet shows the use of quatrains, such as all the stanzas in the poem.
  4. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows ABAB rhyme scheme in the first stanza and it continues until the last one.
  5. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are nine stanzas in this poem with each comprising eight verses such as given in the stanza below.
  6. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows a didactic, ironic, and realistic tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote about the architects of the past and their professionalism.

Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen; Paradox
Make the house, where Gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean.