The poem is an Insight into eternity. It is expressive of the speaker’s wish, especially on the last day. The ‘bar” to be crossed is the metaphor for the boundary between life and death. The first stanza of the poem paints a picture of the evening which implies old age and the expected transition to eternity:
“Sunset and evening star
And one clear calls for me
…May there be no moaning of the bar
When I put out to sea”.
Here, the speaker imagines the end which is inevitable but he hopes that no one will be a hindrance when this end finally comes. In other words, as nature calls, he does not expect anyone to cry and moan for him as this, to him is like a bar, or barrier. Every human being is faced with challenges. Once these obstacles or challenges are overcome, there is limitless joy. Again, the speaker seems to be asking for smooth and less strenuous passage to eternity:
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.
He is thus suggesting that when he returns to his source, “turns again home”, let it be quiet like a “tide that seems asleep”. When the “bell” strikes in the evening to announce his exit…
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark;
This implies that death is sure to come and that is represented by “dark” in the tine above. Furthermore, he warns those he has to leave behind:
And may there be no sadness of farewell
When I embark
…though the flood may bear me far.
The “flood” metaphor simply refers to death which, when one closes the eyes, does not know where and how far it will carry the person. But one thing is certain, the speaker is very optimistic to meet face to face with his savior- “Pilot”.
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I cross the bar.
He hopes to see the saviour whose outstretched hands on the cross seem to be in flight to carry his loved ones home. The poem, in a nutshell is a metaphoric expression of the journey of life and death. Its the wish of every one to have a peaceful passage to eternity. Hence, no one wishes to confront any barrier in the journey to eternity. Hence, the poet does not want mournful farewell as he hopes to meet his Pilot, face to face. This is because such sadness of farewell will only create a “bar” for him to cross, which he does not want.