Crossing the Bar Summary and Analysis

Poet Tennyson

 “Crossing the Bar” is a short but one of the eminent lyrical poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson. Tennyson composed this lyric piece in 80 first years of his life, in the month of October; just a few years before his death. This poem was first published  in a collection; entitled “Demeter and other poems” in 1889. The lyric was so important/dear to the poet that he desired “Crossing the Bar” to be published in all his editions of poetry, at the end (means it should be the last poem of every edition).

Crossing the Bar Summary and Analysis

The poet has grown old as well as weak. He thinks that death can meet him at any time. He is not afraid of death. He is ready for both – to face the death; and his journey towards the eternity after it (death). Through the poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson has tried to tell how a dead man’s journey to eternity is similar to the voyager’s voyage. 

 He says that the sun has set and in the sky; the evening star is also appearing now. There is a clear call for him to set out for the voyage. He desires that there should not be any ” mourning of the bar” when he would go to the sea for the voyage. (Stanza 1)

 The poet wants to say – he is now old and growing weak also. Consequently, the death is inching towards him slowly. But unlike others, he expects from his all relatives and friends not to be sad and mourn at the time of his death or after his death when starts his voyage to eternity. (stanza 1)

At the time of his going to the voyage; (he wants that) everything should be suitable for it (voyage). The tide at the time of his departure should be helpful in making his voyage easy. The waves of the deep sea should not be stormy. It (the waves) should move in such a manner as a man who is sleeping moves – calmly, quietly or gently; and, due to depth of the sea the sound of the waves would be rarely heard. (Stanza 2)

 The poet says, actually he is not going on the voyage from his home; but he is returning back  home  through the wave(s)/tide of “the boundless” sea. He means to say – he wants to die peacefully; without suffering the death-pains and at the time of his death; there would be no fear and doubts in his mind about anything or the other world ( the eternity);  where had he come from and after his death he would go back/return to the same place/eternity. (Stanza 2)

The poet says he would go on his voyage at the time of evening; when – the sun would be below the horizon and the dusk would be settling. The poet/speaker clearly would hear the tolling of the evening of the church; (these all will be) the indication of the night’s approach. Then, there would be dark, after some time. The poet wants that at the time of his going on the voyage “no sadness of farewell” of his family members as well as other relatives. (Stanza 3)

The poet here says that as now the evening has come;  the sun has set earlier and after some time the night will come and there will be the reign of darkness. All activities which were going on will be stopped in the night. In the same way,  the coming of the old age is a powerful sign that death is coming to meet him.

After sometimes he will die and would not be able to perform any activity (of daily life like the living people who can’t do any work due to the darkness of the night). He keenly desires that his relatives and friends would not mourn or be sorrowful at the time of his death when he would start his voyage to the eternity from where he was sent to this world of the living persons. (Stanza 3)

 The speaker is preparing to go on  such a voyage which has no end and there would be no boundary of time as well as place. The waves of the sea would carry the poet/speaker far away.  He expects that he would see his Pilot after Crossing the Bar. (Stanza 4)

His means to say that after the death in his journey to eternity he would be; unlike this world of ours, beyond the limitations of both, time, as well as, place. Eternity would carry the speaker/poet far away. At last, the poet says that – he is hopeful that he would see his Pilot means the Almighty or the Creator (of the universe) after his death. (Stanza 4)  

“Crossing the Bar” major themes:

The notable themes of the poem “Crossing the Bar” are as follows: 

  • Everyone knows that death is a universal truth and inevitable as well. Tennyson also knew this. His – ‘awareness about death’ is one of the major themes of the poem “Crossing the Bar”. The old poet in his eighties, through this poem clearly tells that the evening of his life; means old age has come, and, as after evening the night is sure to come; in the same way with the coming of his old age death undoubtedly will come. Therefore, it can be said that in the poem Tennyson has provided many examples indicating that the poet/speaker’s death is coming.
  • ‘Acceptance of death’ is another major theme of “Crossing the Bar”, which; of course, is not a melancholic or morbid poem in nature. But, in this poem, the poet mediates over his/speaker’s death. He (indirectly) forbids to be fearful of death. But a person should accept it because all people who come to this world die one day.

F. A. Q.

What is the rhyme scheme of ‘Crossing the Bar’ ?

ABAB is the rhyme scheme of Tennyson’s poem ” Crossing the Bar”.

What are characteristics of Tennyson’s poem ‘Crossing the Bar’ ?

Use of (natural) imagery, symbolism, alliteration, assonance, and figure of speeches – are some characteristics of ‘Crossing the Bar’.

 How does the poem ‘Crossing the Bar’ end ?

Crossing the Bar

The poem of Alfred Lord Tennyson entitled ‘Crossing the Bar’ ends on a positive note.

Who died after reading the poem ‘Crossing the Bar’ in 2018 ?

It was the famous novelist and Nobel Prize winner, V. S. Naipaul who died in the year of 2018 (11 August), after reading the poem ‘Crossing the Bar’.

Conclusion

The lyric ‘Crossing the Bar‘ is an allegorical poem of Alfred Lord Tennyson. Means, at the surface level the poem provides a different meaning from that of the real one. But, when we study it at a deeper level, we find its real meaning. In this article, the poem is interpreted from both perspectives ( surface and deeper level meanings), so that it can be helpful/useful to the students as well as readers.  

"Crossing the Bar" major themes Alfred Lord Tennyson Crossing the Bar Crossing the Bar theme poet

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