The Pilgrim / The Bridge Builder – poem Summary and questions and answers

Std 8th English Poem 1.3 The Pilgrim

The poem is also known as The Bridge Builder by Will Allen Dromgoole.

A pilgrim, going a lone high way

Came at evening, cold and gray

To a chasm, deep and vast and wide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim.

The chasm held no fear for him.

But he paused when he reached the other side

And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,

“Why waste your time in building here?

Your journey ends with the close of the day

You never again will pass this way.

You have crossed the chasm deep and wide

Why build ye here at even tide?”

The pilgrim raised his old gray head,

“My friend in the path I’ve come,” he said,

“There followeth after me today

A fair hairded youth, who must pass this way.

The chasm which held no fears for me

To the fair haired youth, may a pitfall be.

He, too, must cross in the twilight dim.

My friend, I am building this bridge for him.”

– Anonymous

Meanings:

chasm : ravine, a very deep, steep gap in the earth’s surface

span the tide : go across the tide

ye : (archaic) you

even tide : late evening

pitfall : trap

Central Idea / Theme of The Pilgrim

The poem gives us the message of unselfish love and generosity towards fellow men.

Summary/ Paraphrasing:

1st Stanza

The poem begins by telling us about a pilgrim who was travelling alone on a highway. Soon it was evening and the weather was cold. The poet also describes the evening as ‘gray’ which could mean cloudy or late evening time when the sun has just set. At that time, he came to a chasm (a gap in the earth’s surface) which was deep, vast and wide. Now, the old man was able to cross it even though it was twilight time, as he was an experienced traveller who may have also passed this chasm many times. But even though he had crossed it, he stopped and built a bridge across it.

2nd Stanza

As he was busy with his work, a fellow pilgrim reached there. He asked the old man, why he was wasting his time building the bridge when he had already crossed the chasm. He also tells the old man that he is very old and he may not live to pass this way again and so why build the bridge anyway.

3rd Stanza

The pilgrim stopped his work and lifted his old gray head to answer the fellow pilgrim. He said that while he was travelling, he saw a young person follow the same path. That youth will soon reach this chasm and in the dim twilight may not be able to judge the depth of the chasm and being inexperienced may fall to his death. And therefore, he was building the bridge for him.

Warming Up

1. Make groups and discuss the following:

(a) What fatal dangers / problems did mankind face centuries ago, but are no longer a threat today?

Ans. Centuries ago travellers did not have the modern amenities like travelling in vehicles, knowing about the weather  in advance and other protective gear, they had to travel on foot without the knowledge of the changing weather. The other dangers would be of animal attacks, as the earth was covered with dense forests everywhere. But the most fatal of them all was incurable diseases like tuberculosis and cholera.

(b) Name a few scientists / explorers /social reformers / inventors / discoverers, who spent most of their lives to find solutions to some major problems / setbacks, that mankind faced.

Ans.     Scientist: Albert Einstein was a great Physicist and Mathematician who gave the theory of relativity.

            Explorer: Christopher Columbus explored America
            Social reformer: Mahatma Gandhi brought freedom from British Rule in India.

            Inventor: Thomas Alva Edison invented the light bulb

            Discoverers: Roger Bacon discovered the magnifying glass

(c) Did they themselves suffer from those problems / setbacks?

Ans. Yes, they did suffer problems and setbacks but they strived hard to find a solution to these problems.

(d) What inspired them to spend the best part of their lives to research and share their findings?

Ans. The perseverance to help others may have inspired them to spend the best part of their lives to research and share their findings.

2. Read and understand the following poetic devices.

(A) If two or more words in the same line convey the same meaning, the Figure of Speech in that line is called Tautology.

For example: It brought joy and cheer.

           They groaned with aches and pains.

(B) Poets often change the proper grammatical order of words in the line of a poem, in order to make the lines rhyme or to emphasize upon something.

The Figure of Speech in such lines is called ‘Inversion’ or ‘Anastrophe.’

For example: Up came the sun. Down the hill, it flowed.

(C) When a question is asked in order to create a dramatic effect and not to get an answer, in a line of the poem, the Figure of Speech used is called Interrogation / Rhetorical Questions

For example: What is this life, if full of care?

            When can their glory fade?

3. What did the pilgrim do, although he had already crossed the chasm?

Ans. Although he had already crossed the chasm, the pilgrim began building a bridge over it.

4. What puzzled the fellow pilgrim?

Ans. The fellow pilgrim couldn’t understand why the pilgrim was building a bridge although he had already crossed it. And he may not live to cross it again.

5. Who was the third pilgrim?

Ans. The third pilgrim was the fair haired youth who was travelling the same path.

ENGLISH WORKSHOP

1. Pick out words from the poem to fill in the web diagram. They should be related to the theme in the web.

2. The entire poem is metaphorical (Implied comparison).

Match the words in Column A with what they imply in Column B.

A B
(1) pilgrim (a) threat to life
(2) journey (b) trap
(3) evening or close of day (c) life
(4) chasm, deep and wide (d) death
(5) building a bridge (e) old age
(6) pitfall (f) a dutiful man
(7) close of day (g) solving the problem / getting rid of threat to life

Ans. (1) – f       (2) – c      (3) – e       (4) – a     (5) – g    (6) – b    (7) – d

3. (A) Read the poem and write 3 qualities of each of the following.

  The old pilgrim The fellow pilgrim The young pilgrim
(a) experienced curious inexperienced
(b) helpful thoughtful young
(c) considerate Self-centred careless

(B) Answer in your own words.

(a) Why did the old man have no need to build the bridge, across the chasm?

Ans. The old man had already crossed the chasm and probably would never pass that way again. So he had no need to build the bridge, across the chasm.

(b) What explanation did he give to the fellow- pilgrim for his thoughtful deed?

Ans. The old pilgrim explained that the youth who was travelling the same path will soon reach this chasm and in the dim twilight may not be able to judge the depth of the chasm and being inexperienced may fall to his death. And therefore, he was building the bridge for him.

(c) What message does the poem convey to all of us?

Ans. The message that the poem conveys to us is that one has to be unselfish and generous towards our fellow men. The poem also conveys the message that the people who have gained experienced and achieved success should help those who are inexperienced.

4. (A) Note the rhyming words in the first stanza.

way – gray / wide-side- tide / dim -him.

Poet has used a deliberate pattern of lines that rhyme with other lines in the poem or the stanza. This pattern can be identified by giving the rhyming pairs of words the same letter of the alphabet.

For example: 1st stanza of this poem has the pattern AABCCBB

So, AABCCBB is called the Rhyme Scheme of the 1st stanza of the poem ‘The Pilgrim’.

(B) Now write the Rhyme Scheme of the 2nd stanza …………. and 3rd stanza ………….

Remember that a line in the 2nd or 3rd stanza may rhyme with lines in 1st stanza, too. You may use the same letter of the alphabet as used in the 1st stanza.

Rhyme Scheme of the 2nd stanza is DDAABB

Rhyme Scheme of the 3rd stanza is EEAAFFCC

(C) Find two lines that contain Inversion

1. Came at evening, cold and gray.

2. To the fair haired youth, may a pitfall be.

Pick out one line each that contains the following Figures of Speech.

(a) Tautology: To a chasm, deep and vast and wide.

      Here the words vast and wide nearly mean the same.

(b) Personification: The chasm which held no fears for me.

      Here the chasm is said to be holding fears which is a human quality.

(c) Interrogation: Why build ye here at even tide?

      This question is asked to create a dramatic effect.

5. Imagine that you are the fellow – pilgrim and you wish to share your experience of the incident in the poem. Write a short article about it for a magazine / journal. Also convey what change it has brought in your life.

6. Appreciation of the poem The Pilgrim

1. Poem and poet: ‘The Pilgrim’ by Anonymos ( It is also known as The Bridge Builder by Will Allen Dromgoole.

2. Central Idea: The poem gives us the message of unselfish love and generosity towards fellow men.

The poem also conveys the message that the people who have gained experienced and achieved success should help those who are inexperienced.

3. Rhyme scheme of the poem:

            1st stanza : AABCCBB

            2nd stanza is DDAABB

3rd stanza is EEAAFFCC

4. Figures of Speech:

            Inversion: Came at evening, cold and gray.

            Tautology: To a chasm, deep and vast and wide.

Personification: The chasm which held no fears for me.

Interrogation: Why build ye here at even tide?

5. Favourite line in the poem: My friend, I am building this bridge for him.

 I like this line because it summaries the theme of the poem of unselfish love and generosity.

It also highlights the message that the people who have gained experienced and achieved success should help those who are inexperienced.

Comments 9

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *