What do the sunset and the evening star symbolize in "Crossing the Bar"?

In the poem “Crossing the Bar,” Tennyson offers an extended metaphor for death. His first line, “Sunset and evening star,” symbolizes death and the hope of a new life after death as the evening star that rises with the sunset.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In “Crossing the Bar,” Tennyson presents an extended metaphor of the passing from life into death. The poem begins, “Sunset and evening star, / And one clear call for me!” The first line here refers to the end of the speaker's life. It is sunset. His life is...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Sign Up for 48 Hours Free Access

In “Crossing the Bar,” Tennyson presents an extended metaphor of the passing from life into death. The poem begins, “Sunset and evening star, / And one clear call for me!” The first line here refers to the end of the speaker's life. It is sunset. His life is drawing to a close just as the day ends. A sunset, though, is a beautiful sight, so the speaker suggests that death, too, might just be beautiful. Further, just as the evening star rises as the sun goes down, so does the speaker have a strong hope that his life will continue even after death. He has been called to embark on a journey, and he is ready to go.

As the poem continues, the speaker extends his metaphor. He is pulling away from the shore, away from life into death, going across the bar that separates the world of the living from the afterlife. He does not want any moaning (or mourning), for he will ride a full tide that turns him home. He wants no sadness as he embarks. His journey will be a joyful one, for even though he is moving out “our bourne of Time and Place,” he stands in great hopes of seeing his Pilot, God, “face to face” at the end of his journey.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on