Crossing the Bar

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.


A Note on the 1918 Diary

Perhaps due to wartime paper restrictions, the diary which ALL obtained for 1918 provides only half a page for each day’s entry: 6.0cm x 4.0cm, with 9 ruled lines. On many days ALL did not fill the space available, but there are quite a lot of days when the space available must have limited his entry. On the other hand, the narrow ruled lines seem to have elicited neater shorthand1.

Before the dated pages begin, there are a few pages for ‘Memoranda’, and on the first of these, with a printed heading ‘Memoranda from 1917’, ALL has written out two quotations, in longhand:

And may there be no moaning of the bar
When I put out to sea.

and –

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, & there shall be no more death; neither sorrow nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away.


The latter often-quoted excerpt is from chapter 21, verse 4 of the Book of Revelation2.

The former quotation, also a popular one, is the second half of the first stanza of Tennyson’s poem Crossing the Bar – correctly quoted: it is often given as “at the bar”. ALL had a copy of Tennyson’s works, inscribed on the flyleaf “From Charlie to Arthur with congratulations on his 21st birthday”. This was Charlie, ALL’s younger brother3, and the 21st birthday was in 1911.

Brief is life but love is long

The volume is published by Collins, in red morocco leather, 16 x 10cm, gilt edges, 15 full-page illustrations, undated. There is a ribbon book-mark, which has been left at a page in the middle of Part iv of The Princess, and on the page so marked the last seven words of the line “O tell her, brief is life but love is long” have been firmly underlined in pencil, with a cross at each end of the line.

A less-than-exhaustive glance through the volume does not reveal any other marked passage, least of all in Crossing the Bar, which has so far not been found in the collection – and neither the title nor the first line appears in the indices. Crossing the Bar is said to have been composed following a serious illness, either on board a ferry to Farringford or on a yacht anchored in Salcombe, so it was presumably never a part of a longer work. It was written in 1889 (Tennyson died in 1892), and although it appears in very many anthologies, it is difficult to discover where it was first published; it does not seem to have figured in any collection of Tennyson’s works in his lifetime, and it cannot be traced even in the OUP edition of Tennyson’s works published in 1911 – an edition which not only lists all the contents of (apparently) all published collections of Tennyson’s poems up to that date, but also provides an ‘Appendix of poems not included in the author’s final edition’; among which it does not figure.

This is particularly curious, since according to Wikipedia4, ‘Shortly before he died, Tennyson told his son Hallam to “put ‘Crossing the Bar’ at the end of all editions of my poems”.’

All too clearly, this did not happen either in the 1911 OUP edition (which there is no reason to think ALL ever saw – but which one would expect to be authoritative), nor, apparently, in the Collins edition which Charlie gave to ALL – so where did ALL copy the exact words from? Perhaps, like the words from Revelation, the poem became widely quoted as the War progressed? Perhaps it was in Everyman5?

  1. See Pitman’s Shorthand

  2. Revelation 21:4

  3. See Family page. 

  4. The Wikipedia entry for Crossing the Bar cites the authority of Hill, Robert W., Jr., ed. (1971). Tennyson’s poetry; authoritative texts, juvenilia and early responses, criticism. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-09953-9. 

  5. See Everyman

31 December 1918; Tuesday

Up at about 6.20. Worked in the afternoon until nearly 4, then got on the car with Harvey etcetera and went to Fienvillers1 to headquarters for the dinner. Met all the old boys and helped to get ready for the fray. Commenced dinner about 7.30. Had splendid feed including roast pork. After dinner a whist drive, Sergeant Powell top and short singsong. Major McMee present after dinner for a while and replied to a toast. Sergeant-major, Sergeant Powell, Sergeant Chapman and Burden and the nursing orderlies. 25 present. Sang Auld Lang Syne at midnight.

Nursing Orderlies dinner.

  1. Fienvillers (B): 10km along the D925 from Doullens (A) toward Abbeville; Michelin square F7. 

29 December 1918; Sunday

On duty as usual. Off in the afternoon and wrote and did a little French. Had short walk with Harvey. Got election results1

Coalition Majority2

Mostly Conservative3.

Greenwood and Hudson4 in for Sunderland. Lot of Labour5 leaders out.

  1. Election day had been 14 December and ALL had submitted his postal vote on  13 December. Counting had been delayed until the 28th so that ballots cast by soldiers serving overseas could be included. 

  2. The Coalition Government was of course a continuation of Lloyd George’s wartime Coalition Government, after the 1918 election comprising 332 Coalition Conservatives, 127 Coalition Liberals, 9 Coalition National Democrats, and 4 Coalition Labour; there were also 57 Labour members, 73 Sinn Fein members who did not take their seats, and 47 Conservatives and 36 Liberals who did not join the Coalition. 

  3. ALL’s choices (13 December) had been Hamar Greenwood (Liberal, 27,646 votes) and Frank Goldstone (Labour, 9,603 votes). Goldstone lost his seat in the 1918 election, having served as Labour Chief Whip since 1914. 

  4. Ralph Milbanke Hudson, Unionist, 25,698 votes 

  5. Although the 1918 election is well known for the loss of (Asquith-supporting) Liberal leaders, Labour’s Ramsay Macdonald and Arthur Henderson also lost their seats (and, as already noted, the Labour Chief Whip); ALL clearly wrote “Labour”, not “Liberal” (the shorthand differs only by the ‘l’ stroke at the end of “Liberal”).