A few years ago at Christmas time, my wife surprised me with something that she spent many months compiling but was one that was worth the project and I still read to this day: a collection of photos of bridges in Geneva, Switzerland, and with them, a collection of poems that were gathered and added, wherever it deemed to fit. The hub for various international organizations from around the world, Geneva, with a population of over 450,000 people (with 3 million inhabitants if counting the metropolitan area), is located at the southwest end of Lake Geneva, boxed in by the mountains of the Alps and situated on the peninsula surrounded by neighboring France. Over three dozen bridges of various types exist within a 20 kilometer radius of the city, most of them span the three rivers that slice the city into many different chunks: the Rhone, the Aire and the Arve. This includes this bridge, the Pont de Chancy, one of many bowstring arch bridges that feature riveted connections and the last crossing in Switzerland before the river enters France for good. All of them I visited during my three month stay in Geneva, working as an intern at the World Health Organization during the summer of 2006.
But Geneva is a topic that will be focused on in a different series of articles to come out soon through the Chronicles. I happened to run across a poem in the book that deals with bridge building and the reason why bridges are there, based on questions by many passers-by. Why do we have bridges at such locations and why do we replace them without looking at its unique value and past? There are as many reasons to build them as there are to tear them down and replace them. But there are just as many reasons to save them, as you will see in the poem called “The Bridge Builder”, by Will Allen Dromgool, written at the turn of the century:
The Bridge Builder
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 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 you this bridge at the evening tide?”
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 pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.”
Do you know of some poems that have to do with bridges, have created poems of your own, or would like to create one to be posted? If so, you are in luck! This upcoming May, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will be featuring some poetry on this topic, penning the loving odes to poets who made their bridges look beautiful through their writing. If you know of a poem that deserves to be posted (whether it is yours or someone else’s), please send it to Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles, at email@example.com, and your poem will be posted. Bridge photos accompanying the poem are welcomed as long as it is cited. When using someone’s poem, please provide a source of citation (link, etc.) to avoid any issues with copyright laws, etc. You can post it in any language other than English, if you wish.
Let’s take pride in our bridges through poetry, for they go together like bridges and history go together.