Alfred Tennyson was born in Lincolnshire on August 6, 1809. Although he knew from a young age that he wanted to be a poet, the path was never easy for him. Throughout much of his life he was plagued with poor health, and he was dogged by financial difficulties, exacerbated by his penchant for making bad investments with what little money he had. He was approaching middle age before he began to achieve success as a poet.
Tennyson’s better-known works include Idylls of the King, a retelling of the Arthurian legend; “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” about a British cavalry charge against Russian forces during the Crimean War; and the book-length poem In Memoriam A.H.H., which Tennyson composed over a period of seventeen years following the death of his best friend, Arthur Henry Hallam.
“Crossing the Bar” was not the last poem that Tennyson wrote, but it’s usually the final entry in every collection of his poetry, in accordance with his express wish. Unlike In Memoriam, in which Tennyson explores in detail his grief, anguish, and crisis of faith after the death of his dearest friend, “Crossing the Bar” is short and succinct: a calm acceptance of his own approaching death, combined with the hope that when it arrives, he will meet his pilot face to face.
Here is “Crossing the Bar” set to music by Rani Arbo, sung by The Jones Family. This track is from their CD “From Earth to Heaven.”
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.