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Crossing the Bar’ contains the most powerful presentation of death in the anthology. To what extent do you agree? Discuss with reference to two other poems in the collection – Tennyson question Tennyson presents death in different ways in ‘Crossing the Bar’, ‘Break break break’ and ‘Morte D’Arthur’. Each presentation is powerful however; it is difficult to decide whether ‘Crossing the Bar’ contains the most powerful presentation because it depends on what type of death the reader finds the most significant.
If it is the death of one’s own life, then ‘Crossing the Bar’ might seem more powerful because it is a representation of Tennyson’s complacency with his own death. But, if the death of a friend relates more to the reader’s personal experience, death in ‘Morte D’Arthur’ could be more meaningful and powerful. To some extent I do not agree that ‘Crossing the Bar’ contains the most powerful presentation of death in the anthology. Both ‘Crossing the Bar’ and ‘Break break break’ use imagery of the sea to convey different meanings.
In ‘Crossing the Bar’, the sea represents the world the speaker will transgress into after death. ‘And may there be no moaning of the bar, when I put out to sea’. Tennyson uses the metaphor of the sandbar to describe the barrier between life and death. One side of the sandbar is life and the sea on the other side is death. This is a powerful representation because Tennyson sets out a distinction between the two worlds clearly, suggesting that death should be embraced because it’s now peaceful and natural. ‘And may there be no sadness of farewell, when I embark’.
This is in contrast to the normal response of death, which is indicated in ‘Break break break’. In ‘Break break break’ the speaker displays feelings of anguish and pain, this is shown in the title. The repetition of the word ‘break’ emphasises the onomatopoeic sound of a heart breaking. It could also be interpreted as waves breaking on the rocks. ‘Break break break at the foot of thy crags, O sea! ’ This quote describes how life progresses in an endless cycle even in the event of the death. The effect of the ‘O’ and exclamation mark at the end punctuates the speaker’s frustration that life still continues to go on.
The speaker takes on a tone of bitterness that the world is not morning with him. ‘O, well for the sailor lad, that he sings in his boat on the bay! ’ In contrast, the use of an exclamation mark in ‘Crossing the bar’ demonstrates the speaker’s excitement of death instead of feelings of enragement. ‘Sunset and evening star, And one clear call for me! ’ This shows how the speaker is compliant of death because it is their own life and they are ready, however in ‘Break break break’ the speaker is demoralised because death has taken their friend without warning.
‘Crossing the Bar’ and ‘Break break break’ both present death powerfully, however ‘Break break break’ may appear more powerful because it uses an expression of grief caused by loss and uses intense emotions, like anguish. Then again, to some extent I do agree that ‘Crossing the Bar’ contains the most powerful presentation of death in the anthology, especially in comparison with ‘Morte D’Arthur’. A similarity between ‘Crossing the Bar’ and ‘Morte D’Arthur’ is that they both discuss religion and relate them to death.
King Arthur’s death in ‘Morte D’Arthur’ can be seen as an allegory for the loss of honour and chivalry in an increasingly materialistic age. ‘And the days darken around me, and the years, among new men, strange faces, other minds’. Arthur and his knights at the round table can be interpreted as Jesus and his disciples. ‘But now the whole round table has dissolved, which was an image of a mighty world. ’ The presentation of death here appears powerful because it is the removal of a higher authority, which has followers and believers just like religion. If a God is removed, then the religion will fall apart because it no longer has a leader.
This makes the death of Arthur seem even more significant because it represents the collapse of civilisation. ‘Ah! My Lord Arthur, whither shall I go? ’ However, ‘Crossing the Bar’ uses religious connotations such as ‘crossing’ to describe the speaker’s journey into the next world or crossing into faith and devotion. Tennyson complements this metaphorical link with a spiritual one as he hopes he will see his ‘Pilot face to face’. This can also be interpreted as Tennyson hopes to see Hallam in the Pilot, however it is more likely that Tennyson is discussing a Christian God.
This is because seeing God face to face is a biblical theme and the transition from life to death in Christianity allows people to join God in heaven, which is beyond ‘Time and Place’. The presentation of death in ‘Crossing the Bar’ may appear the most powerful because unlike ‘Morte D’Arthur’, death becomes an end that is not confusing. In ‘Morte D’Arthur’ Arthur goes to Avilion, which could be a metaphor for heaven. However, he leaves behind a disorientated world with a lack of guidance. In comparison, the bar in ‘Crossing the Bar’ is also a metaphor for heaven, but the crossing is far more peaceful and conclusive.
To conclude, I believe that ‘Crossing the Bar’ contains the most powerful presentation of death because in contrast to ‘Break break break’ Tennyson is conclusive – he is being valiant about his own deaf or has come to terms with the grief of his friend and is ready to be reunited with him. ‘And may there be no moaning of the bar’. Even the structure of the poem can represent the shortness of life. By having fewer words, they can hold more control and capture the attention of the reader. In contrast, ‘Morte D’Arthur’ is longer and this makes the presentation of death less powerful because the meaning may be lost as the poem is read.