I need help locating a poem that apparently was well known in my youth. In the poem a man is questioning a bridge builder why he is building a bridge over a stream he has just crossed. The answer is because a youth is coming after him and he is making the way easier. Can anyone help.
A google search turned up this poem -
The Bridge Builder
An old man, going a lone highway,
Came at the evening, cold and gray,
To 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 fears 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 strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way;
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide --
Why build you the bridge at the eventide?"
The builder lifted his old gray head:
"Good friend, in the path I have come," he said,
"There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pit-fall be,
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him."
Will Allen Dromgoole
Interesting - I'd guess it was quite an old poem - these days we'd expect the young man to build the bridge for an old man following him, who wouldn't have the energy any more. I'm not missing the spiritual 'message' - it's just that the physical scenario seems out of step with today, when the young blaze the trail.
She wrote this poem circa 1900
Will Allen Dromgoole (1860-1934)
was a Tennessee poet, author and playwright
Thanks for all the help. One user commented that the message seems out of step for today but I respectfully beg to differ. I am 73 years old and still consider myself a bridge builder, not only for my family and the grandchildren but for the college students whose classes I occassionally teach. It's interesting the number of phone calls I get asking for my opinions ... and the calls I get thanking me for advise. It is not something I push but when the questions come I answer to the best of my ability from my experience.
That wasn't what I meant. I have the greatest respect for advice and help from older people, and gain a lot from it, myself. I was commenting on the physicality of the metaphor - an older person physically building a bridge to help a younger one. I don't think that image would have been used in a poem today, as it is generally assumed that heavy physical work is normally done by a younger person. The idea that a younger person wouldn't have developed the strength and stamina to do such work is quite old-fashioned. That's why I thought it was quite an old poem. However, the idea that older people have experience and maturity to provide advice and help to younger ones, is, thankfully, still current.
It seems the world we build from day to day is a bridge from the past
to a (hopefully) infinite future. Even our poems may be bridges.
Perhaps the child is a metaphor for the future and we are the bridge.