Crossing the Bar Analysis
The theme of the poem, Crossing the Bar is a voyage of the soul to the unknown land of death. The poet contemplates on death, but does not lose his calmness of mind. He is neither afraid of nor regretful of his death as the impending departure from this world of ours is going to the eternal home which is the heavenly abode.
When the divine call comes to him at sunset he leaves the worldly home with a calm and serene mind. While undertaking the voyage his mind is in perfect composure and sails to his destination. He wishes that his death should be mourned by none, as he is going to be carried to the world of God, where time and place have no meaning.
In the poem sunset and evening star stand for old age, the ‘call’ is the call of death whereas ‘moaning of the bar’ symbolizes the fear and agony of death. Our earthly abode is the harbour and the infinite and eternal other world is the ‘real home. The poet conceives of death as a journey from this finite world, subject to limitations of time and place to an unknown world of infinitude, where Time and Place have no meaning. Doubts and fears do not assail his soul. He knows that as soon as he has pushed away from the shores of this finite world, he will ‘see his pilot face to face’.
Crossing the Bar Questions and Answers
- Explain why ‘Crossing the Bar’ is sometimes referred to as the ‘Swan Song’ of Tennyson.
Ans. In ancient fables, swans are found to die while singing a song. Thus, figuratively, Swag Song refers to a person’s last work or act before death or retirement. This poem was written by Tennyson in 1889, just three years before his death in 1892. That is why this poem is sometimes referred to as Tennyson’s Swan Song.
- Briefly comment on the title of Tennyson’s poem ‘Crossing the Bar’.
Ans. Crossing the Bar by Lord Tennyson is a fine allegory of the final journey of the human soul from this earth to the world beyond the grave. The poet thinks of this journey as a long voyage across the oceans. He further imagines that the departing human soul is starting on its final journey in a ship. Just as a ship has to cross the sand bar at the mouth of the river or the harbour, the human soul, in its final journey has to cross the barrier between life and death. This inner significance of the word ‘bar’ makes the title appropriate and significant.
- “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.”
-Which ‘star’ is referred to here? Why does the poet speak of ‘sunset and evening star”? What are the apparent and allegorical meanings of the expression ‘moaning of the bar”?
Ans. The ‘star’ here referred to is not a star but a planet. It is the planet Venus which is also known as the Morning Star or the Evening Star.
The sunset and evening star here symbolically refer to the last hours of the poet’s life. Life is thought of as a long day and the sunset and the evening star marks the end of this long day.
The human soul’s final journey into the next world has been likened to the voyage of a ship across the ocean. Thus ‘moaning of the bar’ has both a literal and a figurative meaning. Literally, the expression refers to the sound due to impact of the tide on the sand bar at the mouth of a river or a harbour. Figuratively, the expression refers to the wails and lamentations of the poet’s near and dear ones at the time of his death.
- “When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.”
-What does the ‘boundless deep’ refer to in Tennyson’s poem ‘Crossing the Bar’? What is it that drew out of it and when? When does it turn home again?
Ans. “The boundless deep’ here apparently refers to the oceans. But allegorically, the expression refers to eternity and infinity.
It is the poet’s soul that ‘drew out’ or emerged from out of eternity and came to this world at the time of his birth. When it finally leaves this world for ever and goes to the next world, it returns home again.
- The poet in ‘Crossing the Bar’, wishes to die in peace. – What are the things he does not wish to happen at the time of his final departure from this world? In what kind of circumstances does he wish to die?
Ans. The poet wishes that there should be no moaning of the bar when he starts on his final journey from this earth. What he means to say is that his near and dear ones should not disturb him by lamenting his death. He wishes that there should be a full tide so that there would be no moaning of the bar. He means to say that his near and dear ones should allow him to die in peace.
- “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.”
-Fully bring out the allegorical significance of the quoted lines.
Ans. In his poem ‘Crossing the Bar’, Tennyson describes the final departure of the human soul from this earth through the image of the ship ready to embark on a long voyage. Thus the ‘bourne of Time and Place” here refers to this world of finite time and space. The flood refers to the flow or march of time. The bar stands for the barrier between life and death. The “Pilot” refers to God, the Creator of all things and beings. The poet expresses the hope that, when he has crossed the barrier between life and death, he would meet his Creator in the other world.
- What is an allegory? In what sense can ‘Crossing the Bar’ be called an allegory?
Ans. An allegory is a story, a play or a poem in which the meaning or message is represented symbolically.
In ‘Crossing the Bar’, Tennyson describes the final departure of the human soul from this earth through the image of a ship which is ready to embark on a long voyage. Thus, almost every word in the poem acquires a double meaning a literary meaning and a symbolic meaning. Sunset and evening star refers to the last hours of the poet’s life. The bar stands for the barrier between life and death. The moaning of the bar refers to the wails and lamentations of the poet’s near and dear ones at the time of his death. The embarkation of the ship really means the final departure of the human soul from this world to the world beyond the grave. The ‘Pilot’ clearly stands for God Almighty. Thus the entire poem acquires a fine allegorical meaning.