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Crossing the Bar
Crossing the Bar
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Crossing the Bar Theme of Death

If the sandbar is Tennyson's metaphor for the boundary between life and death, then "Crossing the Bar" is all about crossing from life to death. But if you think you're in for a morbid poem, you're in for a surprise instead. This poem is all about accepting and embracing death, rather than fearing the dark unknown.

Questions About Death

  1. What is the speaker's attitude to death in this poem? Is he bummed, pumped, or somewhere in between?
  2. Why do you think the speaker chooses a sandbar as his metaphor for the boundary between life and death? Is it an effective comparison? Why or why not?
  3. What is the speaker referring to when he says "one clear call for me" (2)? Who's making the call? What is it calling him to?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

What Tennyson's really trying to say here is that if you relax a bit, death is as peaceful and easy as putting out to sea.

Death is not the end, but a new beginning; the reference to the sunset suggests as much. The sun sets, but it always rises again.

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