CROSSING THE BAR BY AFRED TENNYSON, FULL POEM, SUMMARY/ANALYSIS, POETIC DEVICES AND THEME

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CROSSING THE BAR

by ALFRED LORD TENNYSON

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

5 But such a tide as, moving, seems asleep, Too full for sound and foam,

When that which drew from out the boundless d Turns again home!

10 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,

15 I hope to see my Pilot face to face When I have crossed the bar.

 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF THE POEM

The poem, Crossing the Bar is Alfred Tennyson’s most favorite poem, hence, he loved the poem that he adopts it in all his poetry collections even after death following his instructions while alive.

Crossing the Bar is a meditation on death which Alfred wrote in 1880 when he was eighty three years before he died. The poem shows the inevitability of death which requires courage on our part. Indeed, the poem attempts to demystify death. The poem is said to be written within twenty minutes while recovering from a very serious illness at sea and at his old age. The journey is a metaphor of death

THEME/ANALYSIS

This is an allegory and elegy, a reflection on the imminence of death. The poet begins to realize the inescapable on clear call at sunset and evening star which foretells his imminent demise. The poet-persona is anticipating death in his old age. The sunset is a reminder that the great hour is at hand and so the right time to begin the journey. He is resolved and resolute on embarking on the inevitable journey of no return. The poet sees death as a sea voyage and cautions against crying when he crosses the bar. Thus he says:

“And may there be no moaning of the bar/When I put out to see”

Stanza two captures the poet’s wishes for happy death which he likens to a sea tide. But such a tide, as, moving seems asleep/too full for sound and foam when that which drew

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out the boundless deep/turns again home’.

In stanza three, it is the fervent hope of the poet-persona that his departure will not cause so much agony and sorrow to his loved ones. It certainly entails entering into another realm of life when the poet says that he will “embark on a journey. The expression to ’embark’ shows that the poet is shaking off his present soul personality to another realm of life, most likely non-terrestrial life of another world Certainly there is life after death and that is the urgent fact the poet-person has succeeded in encoding to us and we equally decode same in this stanza.

The final stanza shows that the poet is hopeful of a rewarding the world unknown, to wit, meeting his creator face to face on that heavenly home where the ‘Pilot’ is seated to receive him. Time or space hold no bar for him hence the flood may bear him out.

Note : that by the poet’s usage of ‘bar’ it therefore shows that the metaphorical division of life and death is deployed. And the journey motif of the poem is made clearer by words and

expression used in the poem.

POETIC DEVICES DICTION

The choice of words is apt and easy to read and the use of simple words make the diction an appreciable one, and the time of the journey is communicated to us by the following words as: ‘evening’, ‘twilight’, ‘sunset’, ‘asleep’, ‘dark’, ‘time and place. The only word that the meaning may not be easily accessible is moaning which is lamentation or crying.

The poem has end rhymes which alternate and has ABAB CDCD EFEF GHGH rhyme

scheme. It is 16-line allegorical poem.

TONE/MOOD.

The poem conveys a general tone of urgency, hope and solemnity while it also depicts a mood of departure and transition.

ALLITERATION

The lyrical quality and rhythmic pattern are enhanced by

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the use of the following alliterative expression below:

1. ‘And one clear call for me’ (‘c’ alliterates)

2. … my pilot face to face’ (‘f alliterates) 3. ‘sunset… star’ (‘s’ alliterates)

4. ‘too full for… foam’ (‘f alliterates) EUPHEMISM

The act of turning harsh and unpleasant experience to a mild one is deployed here, example, the poet describes death’ as a call and referred to God as ‘Pilot”.

REPETITION

Repetition which is meant for emphasis is employed in the following words in the poem: evening (line 1 and 9) ‘when’ (lines 4, 7, 12, 16)

METAPHOR

A lot of metaphorical expressions that help to make the poem clearer and vivid are as follows:

1. The title of the poem ‘crossing the bar is a metaphor because just as athletes would jump and cross the bar, so is it with the passage from life to death

2. evening bell is another comparison in the poem which calls for a check on our part, which shows that whenever a bell is rung, it is a sign of recall, so with the evening bell, the creator rings the bell to recall us back to Himself.

3. ‘boundless deep’ is used metaphorically to indicate

eternity.

4: The ‘flood’ is a metaphor of death which carries the poet away.

5. sadness of farewell’ and ‘moaning of the bar are the usual cries or grief that attend the demise or funeral of anybody. 6. ‘my Pilot’ is a metaphor too.

SYMBOLISM/IMAGERY

Certain words or expression are used symbolically in the poem, examples, ‘sunset and evening star, twilight and evening bell’, ‘boundless deep, ‘dark’, tide’, ‘moaning of the bar are all representing imminent death or the time of death.

THEME OF THE POEM

1. Death is inevitable:

At certain time in life, either as a result of old age or sickness or both, we are bound to go back to the creator and to know the signs of time of such departure is the beauty of the poem. Death is a journey of no return whereby the dying person is entering into another sphere of life. This is one of the lessons of the poem. Everything in life is passing away as life is temporary and transient until we get back to the ‘Pilot’ to continue another life of eternity.

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2. Hope and assurance.

In the poem, a great hope and assurance are expressed by the poet-persona that when he has transited, that he will meet his creator ‘I hope to see my pilot face to face/When I have crossed the bar. The poet is assured and optimistic that there may be no sadness of farewell/When I embark’. Death here is bereft of fear and so is made to be something one

should welcome at the appropriate time.

3. Life after death

The poem is a confirmation of the fact that there is life after death. Pointer to this fact are buttressed by the following words/expression in the poem: ‘call. Here somebody calling another is up there waiting for the person called. Other examples are: I hope to see my Pilot face to face”.

4. This journey called life

The poet-persona presents life as a journey. The word “cross{ing}” is where Jesus was hung, a journey of fate. ‘crossing is also a movement that starts from birth and terminates at death then to the great beyond to meet the ‘Pilot face to face’. The poet also says when I put out to see and turns again home’, he uses words like ‘farewell’, ’embark’, ‘time and place’, ‘flood’ and ‘bar to connote the very idea of journey and transition.

There is also the general theme of contentment and fulfillment which is achieved by ‘clear call such a tide, put out to see’, ‘turns again home’, ‘evening bell, no sadness of farewell, ‘when I embark’, ‘the flood… /I hope to see my Pilot face to face when I have crossed the bar.

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