Crossing the Bar Questions and Answers
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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How can you explain the poem "Crossing the Bar" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson?

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Jason Lulos eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the first stanza, the speaker announces he will be going on some voyage ("out to sea"). He notes (to himself and perhaps the reader) that he will not moan about the "bar" as he leaves on this voyage. He notes that he is being called to this voyage. The setting sun suggests an end to something and the mention of the evening star (a bright star that is like a guide) suggests that he is being guided. 

In the third stanza, we see notions of darkness and night. He hopes there will be no sadness when he makes his exit ("embark"). Given the notions of a voyage, the end of something, and the hope for a peaceful transition of "crossing" a bar, the poem's metaphor emerges as a transition from life to death. 

The speaker notes that this transition is peaceful and without sadness. The idea here is that death is a natural transition and not something to be feared. Therefore, "crossing the bar" is akin to saying "crossing over" from life to death. 

In the final stanza, he notes that the water ("flood") will carry him far from the place he was born. He concludes with the hope that he will see the "Pilot" when he crosses the bar. Since "Pilot" is capitalized, it is an allusion to God. The only clear Christian reference is the "cross" in the title. But overall, the poem is not about a particularly Christian afterlife, nor is it about being judged by God. Rather, it is about death being a natural, peaceful transition with broad notions of meeting a "Pilot" after the crossing. 

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