”Crossing the Bar”*

Above: the Temple Bar Memorial, with Child & Co. in background

*Poem of 1889 by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

From Wikipedia: “At Temple Bar, the Corporation of the City of London formerly erected a barrier to regulate trade into the City. As the most important entrance to the City of London from Westminster, it was formerly long the custom for the monarch to halt at Temple Bar before entering the City of London, in order for the Lord Mayor to offer the Corporation’s pearl-encrusted Sword of State as a token of loyalty. The road east of Temple Bar and within the City is Fleet Street, while the road to the west, in Westminster, is The Strand.

The term ‘Temple Bar’ strictly refers to a notional bar or barrier across the route, but it is commonly used to refer to the 17th-century ornamental Baroque arched gateway designed by Christopher Wren, which spanned the road until its removal in 1878. A memorial pedestal topped by a dragon symbol of London, and containing an image of Queen Victoria, was erected to mark the bar’s location in 1880. The bronze free-standing statues of Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales, facing the road on each side, are by Sir Joseph Boehm. They are celebrated here because “in 1872 they were the last royals to pass through the old gate, in order to attend a thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral for the Prince’s recovery from typhoid”.

Wren’s arch was preserved and was re-erected in 2004 in the City, in Paternoster Square next to St Paul’s Cathedral.”

On 10th May this year, Helen Rappaport posted for HistoryExtra on What Killed Prince Albert?. Albert, Victoria’s Prince Consort, died on 14th December, 1861, aged 42. On his death certificate the official cause of death was given as “typhoid fever: duration 21 days”. Queen Victoria refused to allow a post-mortem. Rappaport writes:

In fact, the very same month that Albert died, the medical journal The Lancet accurately suggested what now seems to have been the trigger of Albert’s final, fatal decline: “There was enough of suddenness in the immediate termination of the disease to raise the question whether it might not have been due to ulcerative perforation of the bowel”.

Rappaport makes a case that Albert succumbed to “a final and severe flare up of Crohn’s Disease,” a condition given its current name by Burrill Crohn and colleagues only in 1932.

Albert had experienced bouts of dizziness and fainting from childhood on, and severe seasickness on any journey by ship. Victoria and Albert travelled by train for the first time in 1843, on a short trip from Slough to London. Albert was unsettled by the speed of 44mph, and suffered motion sickness.

On 23/9/18, I noted in a post:

“Alfred Tennyson (he accepted a peerage in 1883) moved his family in 1853 from Twickenham, where the poet had been distressed by the advent of the railway and a pervasive smell of cabbages, to Farringford House, overlooking the island’s Freshwater Bay. This remained his main residence for nearly forty years. Tennyson quoted someone he met as describing the air here as “worth sixpence a pint”.

Even here, however, fans from the mainland would track Tennyson to his home, some even pressing their noses to the windows to peer at the family. He built a rustic bridge over the public footpath which crossed his grounds, only for members of the public to gather beneath it, hoping for a glimpse of the large bearded poet as he crossed it in his blue military cloak and broad brimmed hat.

Three years later, the owners from whom Tennyson had rented sold the house to him. Prince Albert called in unannounced on the day the family moved their own furniture in, and found them unpacking. He picked some cowslips for Victoria, and promised to bring her to see the place. Tennyson finally met her at Osborne House in 1862.”

Apparently, the words for Crossing the Bar came to Tennyson following a bout of seasickness during a particularly choppy crossing to the Isle of Wight, and he composed the poem in one sitting. It was one of his last poems, and has been interpreted as an elegy for himself. In an extended metaphor, Tennyson compares death with “crossing the sandbar” – the sandbar is a ridge of sand built up by currents along the shore – between the river of life and the “boundless deep” to which we return. The poem opens with this quatrain:

“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,”

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