Scripture Verse

To the place the streams come from, there they return again. Ecclesiastes 1:7


Alfred Tennyson (1809–1892)

Words: Al­fred Ten­ny­son, 1889. He wrote this po­em as he crossed the sea on a fer­ry to his home on the Isle of Wight.

Music: Jo­seph Barn­by, 1893 (🔊 pdf nwc).

Joseph Barnby (1838–1896)

This work puts Ten­ny­son’s fa­mous po­em to mu­sic. With the shift­ing me­ter and im­ag­es, it was quite a chal­lenge, but Barn­by did a mar­ve­lous job.

The se­lect­ion is prob­ab­ly bet­ter suit­ed for choir per­for­mance than con­gre­ga­tion­al use, but it has a love­ly theme. The words re­fer to a sand­bar in the Thames Ri­ver, ov­er which ships could not pass un­til high tide.

Metaphorically, it des­cribes how there is a sched­uled time for each of us to go. Writ­ten in Ten­ny­son’s twi­light years, it states with calm as­sur­ance that God will guide us through death, as He has in life. With the great Pi­lot be­side us, death is just one more mile­post on our jour­ney to­ward life.


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 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.