Crossing the Bar

"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".[1] Shortly before he died, Tennyson told his son Hallam to "put 'Crossing the Bar' at the end of all editions of my poems".[1]

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 the 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."[1]

The words have been set to music by Sir Hubert Parry, Sir Joseph Barnby Geoffrey Shaw and Dr. George Hewson, organist at St Patrick's Cathedral Dublin.

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.[2] Assersohn is the Musical Director of Epsom Male Voice Choir,[3] 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.[4]

A folk music inspired setting for the poem with a refrain was created by Rani Arbo, an American bluegrass musician. The music was written at the time her husband's grandmother was passing away. Peter Amidon has used her melody to create a choral setting.

In August 2018, the writer V. S. Naipaul died after reading "Crossing the Bar" on his deathbed in London; his family and friends citing the poem as having always held a great resonance to him.[5]


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,

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 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.



  1. ^ a b c Hill, Robert W., Jr., ed. (1971). Tennyson's poetry; authoritative texts, juvenilia and early responses, criticism. New York:W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-09953-9.
  2. ^ "Festival20112".
  3. ^ "EMVC Home".
  4. ^ " home page".
  5. ^ "VS Naipaul died peacefully after reading Tennyson – Geordie Greig". ITV News. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
  6. ^ "Crossing the Bar by Alfred, Lord Tennyson : The Poetry Foundation". Retrieved 2016-02-21.

External links

1889 in poetry

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature (for instance, Irish or France).

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson (6 August 1809 – 6 October 1892) was a British poet. He was the Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during much of Queen Victoria's reign and remains one of the most popular British poets. In 1829, Tennyson was awarded the Chancellor's Gold Medal at Cambridge for one of his first pieces, "Timbuktu". He published his first solo collection of poems, Poems Chiefly Lyrical in 1830. "Claribel" and "Mariana", which remain some of Tennyson's most celebrated poems, were included in this volume. Although decried by some critics as overly sentimental, his verse soon proved popular and brought Tennyson to the attention of well-known writers of the day, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Tennyson's early poetry, with its medievalism and powerful visual imagery, was a major influence on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Tennyson also excelled at penning short lyrics, such as "Break, Break, Break", "The Charge of the Light Brigade", "Tears, Idle Tears", and "Crossing the Bar". Much of his verse was based on classical mythological themes, such as "Ulysses", although "In Memoriam A.H.H." was written to commemorate his friend Arthur Hallam, a fellow poet and student at Trinity College, Cambridge, after he died of a stroke at the age of 22. Tennyson also wrote some notable blank verse including Idylls of the King, "Ulysses", and "Tithonus". During his career, Tennyson attempted drama, but his plays enjoyed little success.

A number of phrases from Tennyson's work have become commonplaces of the English language, including "Nature, red in tooth and claw" (In Memoriam A.H.H.), "'Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all", "Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die", "My strength is as the strength of ten, / Because my heart is pure", "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield", "Knowledge comes, but Wisdom lingers", and "The old order changeth, yielding place to new". He is the ninth most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

Antoinette Sterling

Antoinette Sterling (January 23, 1841 – January 10, 1904) was an Anglo-American vocalist.

Break, Break, Break

"Break, Break, Break" is a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson written during early 1835 and published in 1842. The poem is an elegy that describes Tennyson's feelings of loss after Arthur Hallam died and his feelings of isolation while at Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire. The poem is minimalistic in terms of detail and style.

Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment

United States Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment, situated near Cape Disappointment, Washington, at the mouth of the Columbia River, is the largest United States Coast Guard search and rescue station on the Northwest Coast, with 50 crewmembers assigned. Cape Disappointment Station is also the site of the oldest search and rescue station within the Thirteenth Coast Guard District. The station's Area of Responsibility reaches from Ocean Park on the Washington Coast south to Tillamook Head on the Oregon Coast.

The station has nine search and rescue boats, including the 52-foot (16 m) motor lifeboat Triumph (52'-SPC-HWX), two 47-foot (14 m) motor lifeboats (47'-MLB), and two 29-foot (8.8 m) Defender class response boats (25'-RBS). The 52'-SPC-HWX and the 47'-MLB have all been designed for operations in heavy surf conditions and are capable of being rolled over by breaking swells and re-right themselves with minimal damage.

Also colocated with the station is the oldest lighthouse on the Northwest Coast of the United States, Cape Disappointment Light, marking the north side of the Columbia River Bar. Less than two miles (3 km) to the northwest is North Head Light, which provides a beacon for the northern approaches to the Columbia River Bar.

The station's primary missions include providing search and rescue to commercial and recreational mariners within 50 nautical miles (93 km) of the Columbia River entrance and providing a maritime law enforcement presence near the approaches to the Columbia River including execution of homeland security missions.

Commonly known as Station Cape "D", station crewmembers respond to 100-200 calls for assistance every year. The station's heaviest workload occurs during the months of early June through mid-September, when an abundance of recreational boaters transit the Columbia River entrance in search of salmon and bottom fish.

This area is regarded as one of the most treacherous river bars in the world. Because of the large number of shipwrecks near the river entrance it is often called "The Graveyard of the Pacific." During winter storms, wind-driven ocean swells often reach a height of 20–30 feet (6–9 m) at the entrance of the bar. With the combination of strong outgoing tides and large incoming swells, large surf conditions can exist in and around the bar entrance.

The Cape Disappointment headland was first charted as "San Roque" by a Spanish explorer named Bruno de Heceta while exploring the Northwest Coast in August 1775. Heceta recognized this was probably the mouth of a large river but was unable to explore the entrance, since his crewmembers were weak, suffering from scurvy.

Using Heceta's navigational charts during an expedition along the West Coast of North America in 1788, Lieutenant John Meares of the British Royal Navy attempted to locate "San Roque." After exploring the area, Lt. Meares decided that no river entrance or channel existed among the shoals at the base of "San Roque" so Lt. Meares changed the name of the rocky headland to Cape Disappointment, a name that has described the headland since July 1788.

Captain Robert Gray first accomplished crossing the bar several years later on May 11, 1792 aboard the Columbia Rediviva. Gray and his crewmembers successfully crossed the treacherous bar and anchored in Baker Bay to trade goods with the Chinook Indians who populated the region. The river was named in honor of this first passage.

The first U. S. Life-Saving Service station at Cape Disappointment was built on the site of Fort Canby in 1877. For the first five years volunteers manned the station entirely. In 1882, the first full-time Life Saving Service crew was sworn in at this site. Then in 1915, the Life Saving Service merged with the Revenue Cutter Service to form the United States Coast Guard. The existing station was first occupied in February 1967 and is currently the site for Station Cape Disappointment and the National Motor Lifeboat School.

Eastern cut-off

The eastern cut-off is a variant of the "scissors" high jump style

involving a layout. This enables the jumper to clear a higher bar

than with the traditional scissors style, while still landing on

the feet. The technique is generally credited to Michael Sweeney of the New York Athletic Club,

who used it in 1895 to set a world record of 6 ft 5 5/8 inches (1.97 m).

The style came to be called "eastern" because of its origin on the US

east coast, after the invention of the rival "western roll" style by

George Horine on the west coast (Stanford). Horine was in fact the first to

improve on Sweeney's record, when he cleared 6 ft 7 inches (2.01 m) in 1912.

Although succeeded by the more efficient layout techniques of

the western roll and (in the 1930s) by the straddle, the eastern

cut-off continued to be competitive at an international level until

the 1940s in the men's high jump, and until the 1960s in the women's

high jump. It was used by John Winter of Australia to win the high

jump in the Olympics of 1948, and by Iolanda Balas of Romania to win

the women's high jump in the Olympics of 1960 and 1964. Even today,

the eastern cut-off is used by high school jumpers in Kenya, where the

lack of foam landing mats necessitates a style where jumpers land on

their feet.The eastern cut-off is a very beautiful and complex style involving

contrary rotations of the body and legs. A jumper taking off from the

left foot crosses the bar with the right leg first, left leg roughly

parallel to the bar, with the body still on the takeoff side and twisted

(opposite to the rotation of the left leg) to face downwards. After crossing

the bar the legs are rapidly "scissored": this undoes the twist and

the jumper lands gracefully on the takeoff foot, facing the bar.

Emilia Tennyson

Emilia Tennyson (1811–1887), known simply as Emily within her family, was a younger sister of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and the fiancée of Arthur Henry Hallam, for whom Tennyson's poem, In Memoriam A.H.H., was written. Emilia met Hallam through her brother, and they became engaged in 1832.

Emily Tennyson, Lady Tennyson

Emily Sarah Tennyson, Lady Tennyson (née Sellwood; 9 July 1813 – 10 August 1896) was the wife of the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and a creative talent in her own right.

She was born in Horncastle, Lincolnshire. Her father was a solicitor who acted for the Tennyson family many times over the years. Her mother Sarah, who died aged 28 when Emily was three, was a member of the Franklin family, sister of Sir John Franklin, an explorer, and Sir Willingham Franklin. Emily first met Alfred Tennyson during childhood, but they did not become close until much later (when Tennyson's brother, Charles, married Emily's younger sister, Louisa), and did not marry until 1850. For much of the intervening time, they did not see one another at all.

They had two sons, Hallam and Lionel. During Tennyson's lifetime, Emily was his strong supporter and employed her own talents in setting some of his lyrics to music. After his death in 1892, Lady Tennyson devoted herself to helping her son write the authorised biographies.

She is buried in All Saints' Church, Freshwater, Isle of Wight.

Fosbury Flop

The Fosbury Flop is a style used in the athletics event of high jump. It was popularized and perfected by American athlete Dick Fosbury, whose gold medal in the 1968 Summer Olympics brought it to the world's attention. Over the next few years, the flop became the dominant style of the event and remains so today.

Before Fosbury, most elite jumpers used the straddle technique, Western Roll, Eastern cut-off or even scissors jump to clear the bar. Given that landing surfaces had previously been sandpits or low piles of matting, high jumpers of earlier years had to land on their feet or at least land carefully to prevent injury. With the advent of deep foam matting high jumpers were able to be more adventurous in their landing styles and hence experiment with styles of jumping.

Frederick Tennyson

Frederick Tennyson (5 June 1807 in Louth, Lincolnshire – 26 February 1898 in Kensington) was an English poet.

Godiva (poem)

"Godiva" is a poem written in 1840 by the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson when he was returning from Coventry to London, after his visit to Warwickshire in that year. It was first published in 1842, no alteration was made in any subsequent edition.The poem is based on the story of the Countess Godiva, an Anglo-Saxon lady who, according to legend, rode naked through the streets of Coventry after her husband promised that he would remit oppressive taxes on his tenants if she agreed to do so.

HMS Investigator (1861)

HMS Investigator was a wooden paddle survey vessel of the Royal Navy, built to carry out an expedition on the Gabon River in Africa.

Investigator was laid down on 15 June 1861 at Deptford and was launched on 16 November 1861. She was initially commanded by Lieutenant Benjamin Langlois Lefroy off the west coast of Africa. On 1 September 1863, Lieutenant Commander William Digby Dolben of Investigator drowned while crossing the bar of Lagos when the gig, a four-oar whaler, was swamped. He was succeeded by Lt Charles Knowles, later Vice Admiral Sir Charles Knowles, 4th baronet whose expedition August-October 1864 up the Niger was published in the Royal Geographical Society Journal in January 1865. He was succeeded by George Truman Morrell in 1865, under whose command she sailed up the River Niger, making contact with local tribes. Investigator was sold to the local authorities at Lagos in 1869.

Isabella (1824 ship)

Isabella was a ship that disappeared off the coast of Australia in 1824.

Isabella was anchored off the bar at Port Macquarie, New South Wales, when the pilot boarded the ship and ordered his crew to return at 2 pm to pick him up after crossing the bar. At 2 pm his crew returned but instead of taking the pilot on board, boarded the ship, seized her crew, and headed out to sea with the ship. About 4 mi (6.4 km) off shore, the mutineers cast the pilot and the ship's crew adrift.

Isabella was never heard from again; it is assumed she foundered. The ship was owned by Richard Kelly, who had purchased it on favourable terms as compensation for the loss of his schooner Black Jack through the negligence in 1823 of the pilot at Port Macquarie. Both Isabella and Black Jack had been on government service at the time of their loss.Richard Kelly received compensation in 1833 from Governor Darling in the form of some 1,920 acres (7.8 km2) of land in the Parish of Scoone, Brisbane. This occurred despite a previous order that because Richard Kelly had been caught bribing a storekeeper in 1822 he was never to receive any indulgence in the power of the Crown...

List of shipwrecks in July 1865

The list of shipwrecks in July 1865 includes ships sunk, foundered, grounded, or otherwise lost during July 1865.

Melchor Díaz

Melchor Díaz was an early Spanish explorer of Western North America who "was a hard worker and skillful organizer and leader. He inspired confidence in his companions and followers, and always maintained the best of order and of diligence among those who were under his charge". He was involved in three expeditions associated with the explorations of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado.He was placed in charge of the town of San Miguel de Culiacán by Nuño de Guzmán. When in 1539, Fray Marcos de Niza returned from Pimera Alta reporting he had seen the fabled cities of Cibola, Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza sent Diaz as the leader of a small expedition preliminarily to determine if reports by Fray Marcos were true. Information he gained was to benefit Coronado's planned and much larger expedition. He departed on November 17, 1539.

When Diaz failed to return at the expected time, Coronado embarked without him in February 1540. Diaz and Coronado met en route, and Diaz joined Coronado's group. Coronado then sent him on his second expedition to locate and investigate some villages reported in the area. He found the villages and reported they did not live up to the grand descriptions that had been given. Diaz was then sent ahead by Coronado to secure feed for the expedition's livestock.

In July, 1540, Diaz was sent to take the now-mistrusted and hated Fray Marcos back to Mexico and (say some reports) to take over leadership of the outpost at San Geronimo (or Hieronimo) in the valley of Corazones and from there to attempt contact with the fleet of Hernando de Alarcon, which was to be the maritime arm of Coronado's expedition. In September, 1540, he began his third expedition, traveling overland to the head of the Gulf of California. Near the confluence of what is now the Colorado and Gila Rivers he learned from the natives that Alarcon had departed, but had left a cache of supplies and correspondence, which he located. The message basically stated that "Francisco de Alarcón reached this place in the year '40 with three ships, having been sent in search of Francisco Vazquez Coronado by the viceroy, D. Antonio de Mendoza; and after crossing the bar at the mouth of the river and waiting many days without obtaining any news, he was obliged to depart, because the ships were being eaten by worms". Diaz crossed the Colorado River, becoming the first person of European background to do so, and named it Rio del Tizon ("River of Embers" or "Firebrand River") from the practice of the natives for keeping themselves warm. He was impressed with the physical strength of the natives of the area. He explored for four days west of the Colorado, perhaps as far as the Imperial Valley.

While on this expedition (reports vary, some saying it ended further exploration, others saying it occurred while on the return) Diaz accidentally suffered a mortal wound. He threw a lance at a dog that was attacking their sheep. The lance stuck into the ground and before he could stop, Diaz impaled his groin on the back end of the lance. He lingered for twenty days, but died en route in January, 1541.

Because of his untimely death, we do not have the kind of memoirs commonly written by other Spanish explorers. The reports that he made in the course of his expeditions, however, were quite detailed and contributed much to the knowledge of the area and the times for both contemporary and later readers. His name for the Colorado River was the accepted name for almost two centuries. He reported details of Native American culture. He discovered and reported geothermal hot springs, probably the ones near Calexico.

Officeuse (1776 ship)

Officieuse was a storeship launched on 3 August 1776. The French Royal Navy lent her to the Compagnie de Guyane in September. She completed four voyages for the Compagnie, before wrecking on the fifth.

January to July 1777: Le Havre, Tenerife, Gorée, Juda, Île du Prince (possibly Prince Edward Island, Cap-Français, Le Havre

July 1778 to 1779: Rochefort, Lorient, Gorée, Groix, Guyanne, Rochefort

August 1779 to end-1779: Rochefort to Senegal and return

March 1780 to November: Rochefort to Guyane and returnDuring this last voyage she captured the British merchant vessel Arlequin (probably Harlequin), off Cayenne. However, in 1781 the British recaptured her. The captor was possibly HMS Belisarius, which captured the brig Harlequin on 7 December 1781.In June 1781, Officeuse left Bordeaux for Senegal. In November she wrecked while crossing the bar at Casamance to escape HMS Leander, under Captain Thomas Shirley. Shirley reported that Officeuse was supposed to be worth £30,000.

SS Escambia

The steam ship Escambia was an iron screw steamer built at Sunderland in 1879, by the Sunderland Ship Building Company. She was classed 100A1, and was 2,154 tons gross. On 19 June 1882 she capsized with the loss of twenty lives having encountered heavy seas when crossing the bar of San Francisco, California.The Escambia was voyaging from San Francisco to Cape Verde deeply laden with a cargo of wheat when she capsized some five miles offshore at about 7 pm. The pilot reported that the water in the ballast tanks had been pumped out in order to make the ship carry more cargo, and that the coal on deck was stowed as high as the bridge. She also had a list to port. In the rough seas she rolled enough to submerge her scuppers and shipped enough water to stop her engines. Unable to make way, the ship turned beam on to the breakers and was engulfed.The United States naval court decided that the vessel was lost through the ordinary perils of the sea but the United Kingdom Board of Trade was not satisfied with this verdict and ordered its own inquiry. Of the crew of twenty four only four were saved, Captain Purvis, Third Engineer Peter D. Walker, cook John George, and steward George Dash. The casualties included Chief Officer Stephen George of Wales, Second Officer John Simpson of Liverpool, Third Officer J. Meyler of London, Chief Engineer James Sturrock, Second Engineer P. Walker, all the stokers (most of whom were Chinese), other hands, and a passenger named O. Detchon of South Shields.The Wreck Commissioner reported that the inquiry determined that the Captain was to blame for taking the vessel to sea under that condition having acted simply through lack of judgement. Because the Captain had made every effort to save life after the vessel capsized, the court did not cancel his certificate and he was permitted to return to work.The wreck was the subject of a story called "Without Ballast" in a book entitled Stories Worth Re-reading, first published in 1919.


Salcombe is a popular resort town in the South Hams district of Devon, south west England. The town is close to the mouth of the Kingsbridge Estuary, mostly built on the steep west side of the estuary. It lies within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The town's extensive waterfront and the naturally sheltered harbour formed by the estuary gave rise to its success as a boat and shipbuilding and sailing port and, in modern times, tourism especially in the form of pleasure sailing and yachting. The town is also home to a traditional shellfish fishing industry. The town is part of the electoral ward of Salcombe and Malborough, for which the 2011 census recorded a total population of 3,353.Kingsbridge Estuary (actually a ria or drowned valley) lies between Bolt Head and Sharpitor on the west and Portlemouth Down on the east, and runs inland for some 8.6 kilometres (5.3 mi). The estuary was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest in February 1987 and is also a Local Nature Reserve.

Sumner, New Zealand

Sumner is a coastal seaside suburb of Christchurch, New Zealand and was surveyed and named in 1849 in honour of John Bird Sumner, the then newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury and president of the Canterbury Association. Originally a separate borough, it was amalgamated with the city of Christchurch as communications improved and the economies of scale made small town boroughs uneconomic to operate.

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