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4.9: Crossing the Bar

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Hallam Tennyson gives this account of the writing of this hymn:”‘Crossing the Bar,’ was written…on a day in October [1889] when we came from Aldworth to Farringford. Before reaching Farringford he had the moaning of the bay in his mind, and after dinner he showed me this poem written out. I said, ‘That is the crown of your life’s work.’ He answered, ‘It came in a moment.’ He explained the ‘Pilot’ as ‘That Divine and Unseen Who is always guiding us.’ … A few days before my father’s death [1892] he said to me, ‘Mind you put “Crossing the Bar” at the end of all editions of my poems…'” (Alfred Lord Tennyson: A Memoir, II, 366).

 

Sunset and evening star,

And one clear call[1] for me!

And may there be no moaning of the bar[2],

When I put out to sea,

 

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,

Too full for sound and foam,

When that which drew from out the boundless deep

Turns again home.

 

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[3] 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.

—1889

Contributors 


  1. A summons to duty, here that of God. 
  2. A bar is a sandbank across a harbour mouth. Charles Kingsley, in his poem “The Three Fishers,” refers to the common estuary in Barnstaple Bay, where the joining of two rivers and the incoming sea produces a loud moaning sound. 
  3. Life on Earth. 
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