ISC Reverie “Crossing the Bar ” is a way returning home rather than a departure


Crossing the Bar : by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Question : The speaker’s departure from the harbour (from life) and entry into the ocean is not really a departure. It is a way returning home. Discuss with reference to the poem, “crossing the Bar”. 

Answer: Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote this poem ” Crossing the Bar” as his metaphorical meditation on Death.

      In this poem the poet has drawn a parallel between a routine journey of a ship with the journey of life into death.

     The poet has used the metaphor of a ship sailing into the sea to represent the journey of life across a sand bar. Literally the Bar refers to the sand bar, which is a ridge of sand built up by currents along a shore. Allegorically it is a demarcation between life and death.

       Crossing the bar is an act of crossing the sand bar between the harbour and the ocean or we can say an act of passing from life to death i.e. crossing the bar refers to the act of dying.

    The ship is scheduled to set out on a voyage on sunsetwhen the “evening star” will appear. After “one clear call” or formal announcement it will start it’s journey to ocean. Allegorically, the speaker want to say that with the end of the day, his life has also come to an end and he can hear the final announcement of his death as his advanced age has come.

     The speaker wants no “moaning of the bar” when he puts  “out to sea”. He wants a painless and easy and smooth death.

    The poet wants a ” tide” which is so full that it cannot contain more sound and foam and seems like “asleep” when it carries the ship across the sandbar.

      The speaker here hopes that his end will come quietly and without any turmoil and his soul will return to eternity just like the tide returns to the depth of “boundless deep” ocean.
“When that which drew from out the boundless deep
   Turns again home”.

    The speaker finds comfort in the fact that his journey is both a departure and a homecoming. It is suggestive of the fact that journey from life to death is merely a part of a cycle of birth and death, which every human being has to go through.

 Another aspect of these above mentioned lines are as the river and the sea express the kind of death he wishes for himself.

      The water from the sea evaporates and turns into clouds, these clouds bring rain, entering that water into the rivers and these rivers too flow, carrying their water and eventually pouring it into the sea. Thus they complete a cycle and the water returns from where it came.

       Similarly the speaker considers himself like the water, says that he is returning from where he came. Here the word boundless deep” literally refers to sea but in an allegorical meaning it refers to a place where he will go to after his death.

     The poet believes that his soul belongs to a place which is “boundless deep” and far beyond the limits of Time and Place i.e. eternity. He believes that after his death his soul will return to the place from where it originally belong to , which is its home. Thus the act of dying is partly departure from this world and partly the homecoming of the soul to the another world. This way the cycle of life and death will be persistent.

     Here the poet shows a calm and accepting attitude while he feels no pain and fear and no reluctance at the prospect of leaving life.  As he is hopeful to see the Pilotof his ship i.e. the almighty God face to face after death. As he says –

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

      These lines reveals that the poet believes in the phenomena of  afterlife, where he will be reached into another world after “Crossing the Bar” and can see the God  face to face.

     Here the poet points out that the death does not mark the end , it marks a new beginning as it is a part of the cycle of birth and death.

     Thus the journey towards death is not really a departure but a voyage returning home. 

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