Posted by: David Harley | June 27, 2019

Crossing The Bar [Very rough demo]

A work in progress. A well-known poem of 1889 by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. A ‘moaning’ noise is characteristic of a harbour sandbar when the tide is  low and the water may too turbulent for a boat to put out to sea across it in safety. Kingsley’s ‘Three Fishers’ – set to music by John Hullah as recorded by Joan Baez and many others –  uses the image of the moaning of the harbour shoal to represent danger.  Tennyson’s poem uses it as the starting point for describing the final passing from life into death. It’s reported that before his death three years later he asked his son Hallam to have the poem placed at the end of all future editions of his verse.

Since then, the poem has been a popular choice for funerals, whether as a reading or in a musical setting such as the one by Sir Hubert Parry, the choral setting by Ian Assersohn, or the very popular folkier tune by Rani Arbo. In fact, I read it at my own mother’s funeral in 2018, but always felt that I wanted to set it to music myself for an ongoing project. This is the second draft, and it’s sounding nearer to what I wanted.

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 crost the bar.
David Harley

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