I HOPE TO SEE MY PILOT
FACE TO FACE
WHEN I HAVE CROSSED THE BAR
England's great poet laureate was nearing the end of life. His
time was running out, and he knew it. But he knew it with-
out fear, and without regret. For to him death was not an end but
a beginning; death was not the final curtain but merely a change
of scene, the transition to another and perhaps an infinitely better
Alfred Tennyson believed in immortality. He had believed in
it all his life, and now more firmly than ever.
Yes, the time was short. He was an old man now, at the end of
a long and happy career—a life as rich and gratifying as any man
could ask. Soon a new century would be dawning in the world:
the twentieth century. The very sound of it was full of promise.
But he would not be here to see it, for he and the nineteenth cen-
tury were fading together.
Let it come, he thought—let death come when it will! He was
ready. There were old friends who had gone before, good friends
he longed to see again.
"Death, be not proud!" he exulted, repeating in his heart the
famous, triumphant lines of John Donne. Death, he not froud!
A short sleef, and I will wake again, eternally. A short voyage, and
1 will meet my Maker face to face. . . . He thought of the narrow strait that separates the Isle of Wight
from England. Often, returning home across the strait, he saw the
beautiful sunset, heard the evening bells and the "moaning of the
bar." The end, he knew, would be like that: a brief crossing in the twilight, the moving tide, the evening star—and home. Almost
without intention he began to write, the lines forming themselves
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 though 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 crossed the bar.
The day he wrote "Crossing the Bar" Tennyson showed the
verses to his son, who read them with tears in his eyes. "This is the
crown of your life's work!" he said.
The poem was, in a way, Tennyson's farewell to life—for he
died soon afterward. A few days before his death he gave instruc-
tions to his publishers to include this poem at the end of every
edition of his works.
Exquisite in its simplicity, eloquent and deeply moving in its
triumphant expression of faith, "Crossing the Bar" went straight
to the hearts of millions of people, and became one of Tennyson's
most famous poems. Alice and Elbert Hubbard so loved it that it
was read at the memorial services for them after they went down
on the Lusitania. John Drinkwater calls it "the greatest of all hymns"; and there are many who consider it the most beautiful
poem about immortahty ever written.
That day which you fear as being the end of all things is the birthday
of your eternity. Seneca
I am quite ready to acknowledge . . . that I ought to be grieved at
death, if I were not persuaded that I am going to other gods who are
wise and good (of this I am as certain as I can be of any such matters),
and to men departed who are better than those whom I leave behind.
And therefore I do not grieve as I might have done, for I have good
hope that there is yet something remaining for the dead. Socrates
What is our death but a night's sleep? For as through sleep all weari-
ness and faintness pass away and cease, and the powers of the spirit
come back again, so that in the morning we arise fresh and strong and
joyous; so at the Last Day we shall rise again as if we had only slept
a night, and shall be fresh and strong. Martin Luther
For half a century I have been virriting my thoughts in prose and in
verse—history, philosophy, drama, romance, tradition, satire, ode, and
song. I have tried all. But I feel I have not said the thousandth part
of what is in me. When I go down to the grave I can say, like many
others, "I have finished my day's work!" But I cannot say, "I have
finished my life." My day's work will begin again the next morning.
The tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. It closes on the
twilight, it opens on the dawn. Victor Hugo
When you take the wires of the cage apart, you do not hurt the bird,
but you help it. You let it out of its prison. How do you Know that
death does not help me when it takes the wires of my cage down?—
that it does not release me, and put me into some better place and
better condition of life? Bisho-p Randolph S. Foster
There is no death! What seems so is a transition.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The universe is God's house. This world is not the only habitat for the
living. In His house are many rooms. Death is only pushing aside the
portiere and passing from one room to another. . . .
I think of death as a glad awakening from this troubled sleep which
we call hfe; as an emancipation from the world which, beautiful
though it be, is still a land of captivity; as a graduation from this pri-
mary department into some higher rank in the hierarchy of learning.
I think of the dead as possessing a more splendid equipment for a larger
life of diviner service than was possible to them on earth—a life in
which I shall in due time join them if I am counted worthy of their
fellowship in the life eternal. . .
I neither know nor wish to know what the future life has for me. I
would not, if I could, stand at the open window and peer into the
unknown beyond. I am sure that He whose mercies are new every
morning and fresh every evening, who brings into every epoch of my
life a new surprise, and makes in every experience a new disclosure
of His love, who sweetens gladness with gratitude, and sorrow with
comfort, who gives the lark for the morning and the nightingale for the
twilight, who makes every year better than the year preceding, and
every new experience an experience of His marvelous skill in gift-giv-
ing, has for me some future of glad surprise which I would not fore-
cast if I could.
Write a summary and personal reflection on above topic?