Puneet Varma (Editor)

Crossing the Bar

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"Crossing the Bar" is an 1889 poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It is considered that Tennyson wrote it in elegy; the poem has a tone of finality and the narrator uses an extended metaphor to compare death with crossing the "sandbar" between river of life, with its outgoing "flood," and the ocean that lies beyond [death], the "boundless deep," to which we return.


Tennyson is believed to have written the poem (after suffering a serious illness) while on the sea, crossing the Solent from Aldworth to Farringford on the Isle of Wight. Separately, it has been suggested he may have written it on a yacht anchored in Salcombe. "The words", he said, "came in a moment" Shortly before he died, Tennyson told his son Hallam to "put 'Crossing the Bar' at the end of all editions of my poems".

The poem contains four stanzas that generally alternate between long and short lines. Tennyson employs a traditional ABAB rhyme scheme. Scholars have noted that the form of the poem follows the content: the wavelike quality of the long-then-short lines parallels the narrative thread of the poem.

The extended metaphor of "crossing of bar" represents travelling serenely and securely from life through death. The Pilot is a metaphor for God, whom the speaker hopes to meet face to face. Tennyson explained, "The Pilot has been on board all the while, but in the dark I have not seen him…[He is] that Divine and Unseen Who is always guiding us."

The words have been set to music by Sir Hubert Parry.

In 2014, Ian Assersohn wrote a new setting of the words for male voices. Assersohn's piece "Crossing the Bar" won the Composers' Competition at the Cornwall International Male Voice Choir Festival, from a field of 40 entries. Assersohn is the Musical Director of Epsom Male Voice Choir, and the choir sang the world première of "Crossing the Bar" in Truro Cathedral at the Festival Opening International Gala Concert on Thursday 30 April 2015.


Crossing the Bar Wikipedia

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