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Featured Poem: ‘Crossing the Bar’ By Alfred Tennyson

Written by Chris Routledge, 4th May 2009

Due to last week’s announcement regarding Carol Ann Duffy succeeding Andrew Motion as Poet Laureate, our featured poem belongs to one who previously held the title: Alfred Tennyson. Published in 1889, ‘Crossing the Bar’ is traditionally thought of as Tennyson’s last poem, and it is even believed that he intended it to be his own elegy. Written shortly before his death, the act of ‘Crossing the Bar’ represents the passing over from life to death. It was written after Tennyson suffered a long illness whilst at sea, explaining the inclusion of imagery such as the ‘tide’ and ‘boundless deep'.

Tennyson replaced Wordsworth as Poet Laureate in 1850, and held the position until his death in 1892. Many of his lyrics are still very well-known today; poems such as 'The Charge of the Light Brigade', 'Maud', and 'The Lady of Shallott' remain some of his most famous poems.

Crossing The Bar

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

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.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

Alfred Tennyson, 1889.

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