An imitation of “Crossing the Bar” by Alfred Lord Tennyson

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Last semester, for Junior Novel project’s final, we were supposed to write an imitation poem of one of our focal poet’s works. I chose “Crossing the Bar”, in which Tennyson wistfully spoke of the pilot who directs us into the beyond, to the other side–to Heaven. Here’s a few points I wrote as the accompanying notes to my imitation! It’s not the greatest by any means but I love Tennyson’s poetry (thus my reason for choosing him, and I love this bittersweet poem with its hopeful overtone)

  • Tennyson used nautical terms when writing Crossing the Bar, to create a metaphor for God—the pilot—and crossing “the bar” of life into the next, to see the pilot face to face. I attempted to emulate this in a Dante-like way, as a wanderer lost in a dark wood, seeking reprieve and salvation.
  • Tennyson said of “Crossing the Bar”: “The Pilot has been on board all the while, but in the dark I have not seen him” (Tennyson’s Poetry, 578, note 1). I try to capture this in my poem as well, when I write “Moonbeams and starlight//may yet break past the roof//defeat all dread and light the night//for doubt needs proof”. Even in the darkness the light exists—though it might not be as obvious in the day when the bright sunshine—or the proof is vividly evident—it still shines and it can ‘break past the roof’ of the forest (dark times in life) and “light the night”.

Without further ado…

 

Shadows and twilight

And silence comes for me!

And then sun’s breaking dark gives holy sight;

The demon’s just a tree,

 

But dawn on forest floors is lost in shades,

Even with glory on gloom,

Just stars of sun-specks pour into dim glades

Yet dreams still bloom.

 

Moonbeams and starlight

May yet break past the roof,

Defeat all dread and light the night,

For doubt needs proof;

 

Once proved, this mortal coil will free at last

A pilgrim wand’ring on,

Before dawn and dusk unite and nightmares passed,

To memory, then gone.