Text of the Poem

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 cross'd the bar.


  1. Crossing the bar is an extended metaphor for crossing the boundary between life and death. A metaphor is a device in which two different things are compared by implying or stating that they are the same thing. An extended metaphor unfolds throughout an entire text and often utilizes smaller metaphors for reinforcement. In “Crossing the Bar,” the extended metaphor for death begins with images of twilight and the setting sun—both of which represent impending death—in the first two stanzas. As night approaches, the speaker anticipates limitless darkness and a “flood” that “may bear me far”; however, he frames his journey as a homecoming and hopes to meet his “Pilot” after crossing the bar. Though the speaker literally describes preparing to set sail, his language and the mood it creates can also relate to the experience of dying.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. Night has arrived and the speaker sets out on his scheduled sailing, acknowledging that his travels may lead him far beyond the boundary of “Time and Place.” Despite the uncertainty in his future, he seems to take confidence in potentially seeing his “Pilot” after crossing the bar from the harbor to the ocean.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. The noun “bourne” means a boundary or a limit. In this context, “our bourne” is the bar, or the literal boundary between the harbor and the sea. However, the boundary is also metaphorical in that it separates the “Time and Place” of human existence from the boundless unknown that exists beyond death.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. The verb “to embark” means to board a vehicle, such as a ship, for travel. It can also mean to begin something. The speaker symbolically anticipates the darkness that he will face when he embarks on his journey and hopes that his departure will not bring sadness.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. This line uses assonance, or the repetition of vowels, in the words “And,” “after,” “that,” and “dark.” Assonance contributes to the poem’s varying metrical structure, which seems to mimic the ebb and flow of the ocean.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. These two lines use enjambment, a device in which a phrase, thought, or clause expressed in one line continues into the next line. Enjambment emphasizes the significance of “the boundless deep,” which is important to the poem’s extended metaphor. Death is vast and mysterious, much like the ocean that a seafarer faces.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. This line uses sibilance, a device in which words with the letter “s” are repeated so that they create a hissing sound when spoken aloud. This form of repetition stands out because of the hiss; as a result, Tennyson’s striking imagery delivers an even more emotional impact.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. Tennyson personifies the ocean’s tide by portraying it as a sleeping being. Personification, which involves attributing human characteristics to nonhuman things, creates especially vivid imagery of the sea at sunset. Personifying the sea also develops the poem’s central metaphor of the sea journey representing death and dying.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. This line uses alliteration, or the repetition of consonants, in the words “clear call.” Alliteration establishes the poem’s rhythm while also introducing the premise of its extended metaphor: the speaker feels a call to embark on a sea journey, which represents the journey from life to death.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. The “evening star” is Venus, the second planet from the Sun. Venus, which looks like a very bright star, can also rise in the morning. Its orbit is within that of Earth’s and it often appears to be close to the Sun; however, the planet’s presence at dawn or at dusk depends on its placement on either side of the star. When Venus trails the Sun, it appears in the evening. When it leads the Sun, it appears at dawn.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor