Revisiting ‘Crossing The Bar’ By Alfred Lord Tennyson

Revisiting ‘Crossing The Bar’ By Alfred Lord Tennyson

Crossing The Bar

Sunset and evening star,

      And one clear call for me!

And may there be no moaning of the bar,

      When I put out to sea,

   But such a tide as moving seems asleep,

      Too full for sound and foam,

When that which drew from out the boundless deep

      Turns again home.

   Twilight and evening bell,

      And after that the dark!

And may there be no sadness of farewell,

      When I embark.

   For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place

      The flood may bear me far,

I hope to see my Pilot face to face

      When I have crost the bar.

– Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Alfred Lord Tennyson was born in England and is welcomed as one of the greatest Victorian poets. During the reign of Queen Victoria, Tennyson had been an official poetic spokesman. In his literary work, his focus was presenting the rapidly changing rural England under the colossal hands of industrialization. Tennyson is acclaimed for his mastery in visualizing the natural environment using imagery and overlapping them with real-life experiences takes even in this poem a conscious effort to draw parallels with death and the sunset.

‘Crossing the Bar’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson is an elegy. The poem does not simply offer an image of the sunset, it is well-linked with the idea of death and the afterlife. Though the meaning on the surface is simple, metaphorically the poem digs out an important insight into life. Thereby, being a poem with deceptive ease conveyed, it stands as one of the greatest masterpieces among his other poems. The poem has also contributed to uplifting Tennyson’s fame to a higher level among his colleagues.

Tennyson carefully embeds the idea of death and the afterlife in the poem “Crossing the Bar” using implicit metaphoric comparisons of the evening sky. “Sunset”, “Evening star”, “Twilight’, and “evening bell” paint the evening image. The tone is sad and melancholic, enhancing the idea of death. The poet persona receives a “clear call” and that call s unavoidable but hard to accept as well, being it a call to abandon the ties one has in his life, leave what he embraces dearly in his life. The alliterated rhythm gives a cacophonic effect as if to sound how painful the moment of death is. The tone of sorrow and confusion has further been extended using inversion, “And may there be no moaning of the bar”.

The second stanza of the poem presents a vivid image of the sea. But the image he brings in is not a highlight of the beauty of the sea waves. The tide moves slow, and the waves are heavy such that they do not sprinkle white foam. Rising from the “boundless deep”, the tide “turns again”.

“Twilight” is an effective metaphoric comparison to death. It is the time before the darkness – death and it lasts only for a short while. Despite the experience of being overwhelmed with sorrow, the persona faces death with confidence. At this point, Tennyson brings in the ideas of religion into the discussion. According to him, this is a pilgrimage to heaven, “I hope to see my Pilot face to face”. The “Pilot” mentioned here is God. After his death he is going to meet his guide, savior, so why does he fear?

– Rtr. Hasanjalee Adhikari

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