Crossing the Bar For Mortal Stakes

This 1889 poem, Crossing the Bar, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson has been quoted on many occasions in life’s passages:  graduations, changing vocations, marriage/divorce, and the obviousreference to life’s end.

I just attended my granddaughter’s college graduation at which a musical setting of the poem was sung.

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.

Student Observations on Crossing the Bar

The poem’s sentiment certainly matched the setting for those leaving the familiar shared college experiences to venture out on individual journeys. The two senior speakers spoke of this challenge when “putting out to sea.”

One asked: How do we locate ourselves in the big picture questions confronting society and hold ourselves accountable?

Another:  As we pursue our individual paths we underestimate the power of community; yet that is how we are able to emerge with the confidence to go forth. 

There was an aspiration in their words best captured in the final stanza of Robert Frost’s poem Two Tramps:

But yield who will to their separation,

My object in living is to unite

My avocation and my vocation

As my two eyes make one in sight.

Only where love and need are one,

And the work is play for mortal stakes,

Is the deed ever really done

For Heaven and the future’s sakes.

All of us will cross several metaphorical bars in our lifetimes. Often this arises from the never ending effort to find in Frost’s phrase work that is play for mortal stakes.
I believe that is why so many enjoy the credit union movement as a profession and doing good works serving members, “where love and need are one.”

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