Tennyson’s Poetry


“Crossing the Bar”

Summary “Crossing the Bar”

The ABAB rhyme scheme of the poem echoes the stanzas’ thematic patterning: the first and third stanzas are linked to one another as are the second and fourth. Both the first and third stanzas begin with two symbols of the onset of night: “sunset and evening star” and “twilight and evening bell.” The second line of each of these stanzas begins with “and,” conjoining another item that does not fit together as straightforwardly as the first two: “one clear call for me” and “after that the dark!” Each of these lines is followed by an exclamation point, as the poet expresses alarm at realizing what death will entail. These stanzas then conclude with a wish that is stated metaphorically in the first stanza: “may there be no moaning of the bar / When I put out to sea”; and more literally in the third stanza: “And may there be no sadness of farewell / When I embark.” Yet the wish is the same in both stanzas: the poet does not want his relatives and friends to cry for him after he dies. Neither of these stanzas concludes with a period, suggesting that each is intimately linked to the one that follows.

The second and fourth stanzas are linked because they both begin with a qualifier: “but” in the second stanza, and “for though” in the fourth. In addition, the second lines of both stanzas connote excess, whether it be a tide “too full for sound and foam” or the “far” distance that the poet will be transported in death.