Crossing the Bar Analysis


Tennyson requested to place the poem at the end of his poetry collection. This poem is a summary of his previous composition. The symbols and images used in the poem can be found in most of the other poems of Tennyson.

However, the poem symbolises something that is not there in the others. For this, I will compare some of his famous poems with Crossing the Bar and analyse the differences that make this poem unique.

Ulysses and Crossing the Bar

In his poem, Ulysses the poet uses images like the sunset, western star, an eager speaker who is ready for departure etc. These images are also in Crossing the Bar.

However, the difference lies in the desires of the speakers. In Ulysses, we find the speaker’s desire for life and in Crossing the Bar there is a desire for death.

In Ulysses, there are “moans” of Sea that is a kind of grief but in Crossing the Bar the sea is the destination where there would be no moans and griefs.

In Ulysses, the speaker struggles against the movement of nature while in Crossing the Bar speaker desires to go with the flow of nature.

Locksley Hall and Crossing the Bar

In the other poem Locksley Hall, we do find the concept of escapism like in Crossing the Bar. “For the Mighty Wind Rises roaring Sea world and I go”, however unlike Ulysses and Crossing the Bar this departure is not positive.

The Voyage and Crossing the Bar

In The Voyage like Crossing the Bar, there is a desire for adventure. However, the voyage could not be completed as the laws of nature kill the crew.

The difference lies on the ground that in Crossing the Bar the poet is not going against the laws of nature but obeying them unlike in The Voyage where the speaker is going against them.

Tithonus and Crossing the Bar

In the Tithonus like Crossing the Bar, the poet is ready to welcome death. However, it differs from Crossing the Bar in its feeling that adventure and aspiration are undesirable and unnatural.

Moreover, the speaker in Tithonus is full of sadness of farewell unlike the speaker of Crossing the Bar where he is quite happy with the farewell.

Thus the poem marks a stage of the poet at which he is not in favour of living, is happy with death, eager for afterlife adventure and considers it quite meaningful and worth doing.

Unlike the other poems, there are no contradictions in Crossing the Bar. The poet wants to go with the flow of nature in order to see his Pilot.

This desire of escapism and quest for God was a characteristic feature of Victorian poetry. The poets at that time were quite dissatisfied with the industrialization, individualism, greed for material things and hypocrisy and found relief in escaping to the ideal world.

Here in the poem Crossing the Bar refers to the escaping from the hurdles of the world and move to the afterlife which for the poet is a solution to all the problems.