ABOUT THE POET
Alfred, Lord Tennyson is the most distinguished poet
of the Victorian era. He has seemed the embodiment of his genre, both to his
contemporaries and to the modern readers. Born at Somerset Rectory in
Lincolnshire, England on the 6th of August, 1809, the son of the
Reverend George Clayton Tennyson. Tennyson portrayed his literary skills quite
early, and by the subtle age of fourteen had authored a drama in blank verse
and 6000 lines epic poem.
In 1828, Tennyson got enrolled at the Trinity College,
Cambridge. At the same year, he won the Chancellor’ Gold Medal for his poem Timbuctoo.
In 1830, he released his first solo collection: Poems, Chiefly Lyrical.
His poetry deals with various facets and expresses the spiritual unrest of his
Among his best-known poems are The Lady of Shallot,
Lockley Hall, Morte d’Athur, and Ulysses. His career hit a
high note with In Memoriam.
His voluminous works are known for his experiment with
meters was selected to succeed William Wordsworth as England’s new Poet
Laureate in 1880. Wordsworth penned him as “ the greatest of our living poets”.
He breathed last at Aldworth House, his home in Surrey,
on 6th of October 1892, at the age of 83. He was consigned to the
grave in the Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey, and the copy of Shakespeare’s
play Cymbeline was placed along.
ABOUT THE POEM
Tennyson is surmised to have written the poem while on a
voyage, crossing the Solent from Aldworth to visit the Aisle of Wright. Its
vivid imagery and Romanization of death resemble Romantic-era literature. The
poem was written three years before his demise. “ The words,” he said, “ came in
a moment”. The poem has been very important for him as he had instructed that
all of his poetry collections should end with “ Crossing the Bar”. Moreover, he
had asked his son Hallam to recite this poem in his deathbed.
The poem focusses on the impermanency of life and the
finality of death. The poem was published in the volume “Demeter and Other
Poems” ( 1889). The poet uses the
journey motif to express his views about his journey from life to death and
beyond. The sixteen lines extended metaphor of Crossing the Bar embodies
travelling placidly and securely from life to death.
The poem was published in the backdrop of the conflict
between science and faith. Darwin’s theory of evolution and many other scientific
discoveries shook the people’s faith in the scriptures and God himself.
Tennyson strongly portrayed the cycle of rebirth and at last coming face to
face with the Pilot in the day of judgement.
STRUCTURE OF THE POEM
Sunset and evening
one clear call for me!B
And may there be no
moaning of the bar, A
I put out to sea, B
such a tide as moving seems asleep, C
full for sound and foam, D
When that which drew
from out the boundless deep C
and evening bell, E
after that the dark!F
And may there be no
sadness of farewell, E
I embark; F
tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place G
flood may bear me far, A
I hope to see my Pilot
face to face G
I have crost the bar. A
‘ Crossing the Bar’ is an elegy of four lines and each
of them is quatrains. It is narrated in the first persona. It is
concerned with the notion of death, though its mood is far from sad or
sorrowful. He has used the classical rhyme scheme of abab. The structure
is akin to that of a ballad form. The length of the lines varies according to the
intended movement. The poem is interlinked with theme and conceit. It has a rhyme
scheme as ABAB CDCD EFEF GAGA. There is a consistency about the third
line of the poem that in all the four stanzas they have ten syllables. For
example, And/ may/ there/ be/ no/ moa/ ning/ of/ the/bar .
Tennyson has extended one line in each of the first
three stanzas into a single iambic pentameter line. The repeated usage
of the word “ bar” is substantial as it is the divide between life and the
afterlife. The pace slows down in the last line ‘ When I have crost the bar’
and sums up forcefully in an optimistic note ‘ to see” the awaited “ Pilot”.
LITERARY DEVICES IN THE POEM
The poem “ Crossing the Bar” has the following poetic devices:-
The poem has used several metaphors to convey the meaning. A metaphor is a direct
comparison between two things but a not explicitly cited. Examples of metaphors
in the poem are:
· Sunset and evening star, a
metaphor the end of life.
a metaphorical reference to God.
I.e sandbar, a strong raised area between the harbour and the sea is a metaphor
for boundary between life and death.
A reference to the various senses of the human
body. There are several imageries in the poem like
Sunset, the evening star an
d twilight ( visual imagery).
Moaning of the bar( auditory imagery).
of alliteration are:
and the evening star.
one clear call for me!
that which drew
tho’ from out our bourne
figure of speech in which an inanimate object or animal is given human-like
· “ And
may there be no moaning of the bar”
But such a tide as moving seems asleep”.
hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.”
THEME OF THE POEM
1.Death and Acceptance- The theme of death and acceptance is the
predominant theme of the poem “ Crossing the Bar”. It focuses on the necessity
of life to accept the ups and downs of life with stoicism and honour.
The speaker correlates this the crossing of the bar
which divides the element of life and death. The poem is a clear argument
toward the acceptance of death and the assurance of God’s solace in eternity.
The poem begins with” one clear call” for the poet to
which he resonates. He wants that there should be no moaning after his
departure. The “ sunset and evening star” are symbolic of getting old and the “
call” refers to signal for impending cessation. This establishes the idea that
God is behind the process of life and death. Approaching death is one of God’s
There is a certain sense of hope as the speaker wants
no mournful departure. That is probably because he doesn’t see death as a true
Also, when the tides classes at the shore they make a
moaning sound. Here, the endorsement of imminent death calmly, without fear is
implied. He hopes that when one disentangles oneself from the knot of life, he
may be set to a new destination without much sound. The going out to return to
the “ boundless deep” from which all mortals come. He considers death as a
trail through ups and downs from this finite world to a world of the afterlife.
Where there will be no boundaries like the “ bar” between life and death and no
restrictions of “ Time and Place”. The reason for death is not merely the end
but a new beginning.