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Who is the "Pilot" in Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar"?

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onya | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 9, 2009 at 12:45 AM via web

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Who is the "Pilot" in Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 9, 2009 at 1:51 AM (Answer #1)

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There is an interesting history to Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem, "Crossing the Bar."  Written on the back of an envelope in twenty minutes, the length of time that it took the ferry to cross from Lymington to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, Tennyson, then eighty years old, had just recovered from a serious illness.

In light of this information, perhaps, the poem can be interpreted as Tennyson's encounter with near death:

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.

Well again, the speaker, while appreciating his recovered health, hopes that "from our bourne of Time and Place" he will meet God when he does, at last, die:

I hope to see my Pilot face to face/When I have crost the bar.

Given a renewal of life, the speaker resolves to live well for the remainder of his life.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 9, 2009 at 12:58 AM (Answer #2)

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In this poem, it seems pretty clear that the Pilot represents Jesus or, as Tennyson himself put it, "that Divine and Unseen Who is always guiding us."

The poem as a whole is talking about the death of the narrator (which will, apparently) come pretty soon.  Unlike some poems about death, this one does not talk about struggling against death or fearing it or being in any way sad about it.

Instead, the whole tone of the poem is very content.  The narrator is not worried about death because he will (he hopes) meet God (or Jesus) face to face after he dies.

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subrataray | High School Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted March 20, 2010 at 4:10 AM (Answer #3)

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The poem speaks of Tennyson's firm conviction in God .The poet has come in this earth as a guest .His few days stay in this island is full of joy .For he has always his psychic connection with the Almighty God .God is his pilot and He will guide him the passage way between the earth and the heaven .

The sea represents the silent sea through which his soul coming out of the body will set sail towards the eternal world of silence .

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