Poetry Survey Series Post Six: A Moment by Mary Elizabeth Coledridge
The clouds had made a crimson crown
Above the mountains high.
The stormy sun was going down
In a stormy sky.
Why did you let your eyes so rest on me,
And hold your breath between?
In all the ages this can never be
As if it had not been.
Here is a poem almost as brief as its subject, containing in it that paradox of limitation and infinity which characterizes the “moment.’ A moment, of course, is different than a second, or any other scientific division of time. “A moment” is to Time what “a place” is to Space. It is natural time, as conscious people experience it directly, and not as it is measured by clocks and measuring-rods.
What I think about this poem is that it is not meant for endless contemplation (though it may call attention to thoughts and feelings that one can comfortably be alone with for a long while.) It is meant to be got at in a single gulp, or two. The poem has only one point, and that is to transfer a very specific concious experience from the author’s mind to ours. That experience has never been given a name by the English language. This poem is its name.