Man on the Moon – Stephen Edgar – Analysis

Man on the Moon

Hardly a feature in the evening sky
As yet—near the horizon the cold glow
Of rose and mauve which, as you look on high,
Deepens to Giotto’s dream of indigo.

Hardly a star as yet. And then that frail
Sliver of moon like a thin peel of soap
Gouged by a nail, or the paring of a nail:
Slender enough repository of hope.

There was no lack of hope when thirty-five
Full years ago they sent up the Apollo—
Two thirds of all the years I’ve been alive.
They let us out of school, so we could follow

The broadcast of that memorable scene,
Crouching in Mr. Langshaw’s tiny flat,
The whole class huddled round the TV screen.
There’s not much chance, then, of forgetting that.

And for the first time ever I think now,
As though it were a memory, that you
Were in the world then and alive, and how
Down time’s long labyrinthine avenue

Eventually you’d bring yourself to me
With no excessive haste and none too soon—
As memorable in my history
As that small step for man on to the moon.

How pitiful and inveterate the way
We view the paths by which our lives descended
From the far past down to the present day
And fancy those contingencies intended,

A secret destiny planned in advance
Where what is done is as it must be done
For us alone. When really it’s all chance
And the special one might have been anyone.

The paths that I imagined to have come
Together and for good have simply crossed
And carried on. And that delirium
We found is cold and sober now and lost.

The crescent moon, to quote myself, lies back,
A radio telescope propped to receive
The signals of the circling zodiac.
I send my thoughts up, wishing to believe

That they might strike the moon and be transferred
To where you are and find or join your own.
Don’t smile. I know the notion is absurd,
And everything I think, I think alone.

Stephen Edgar (1951 –

Clive James has given an excellent analysis of this poem in his book ‘Poetry Notes’ … the text of this discussion is also on the internet and this is the website link … https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/articles/69175/an-almost-perfect-break-up-poem

Adding some comments to this discussion …

There is no such a thing as a perfect poem … and I agree that this poem has a decided flaw in the second last stanza when SE makes reference to the text in another of his poems – re: to quote myself … an oblique reference that jolts the flow.

However, this is certainly a well crafted poem and one poem that will surely be remembered against his name.

Apart from the ‘poetic devices’ discussed by Clive James for me one of the reasons it is a great poem is the integrated comparison between two ‘major events’ that occurred in 1969. The first event being that famous ‘walk on the moon’ and the second being much more down to earth that of the start of a very personal relationship that affected his life. The poem looks back at these events after thirty five years. The second stanza subtly introduces the link by the ‘moon/nail’ comparison. It is not clear what ‘hope’ means until reading further when ‘hope’ is seen as more relevant in regard to a successful personal relationship.

The journey to the moon took a lot of planning. It was a long path to that first walk and everyone was indeed hopeful for a successful outcome. SE looks at the equivalent path that led to the meeting of his love indicating ‘eventually you’d bring yourself to me’. He poses questions such as – what planning and what forces brought the two of them together? – and was it predestined? And there is that familiar romantic notion that love is meant to be when all is well between lovers.

A secret destiny planned in advance
Where what is done is as it must be done
For us alone

… but then he states that ‘the special one might have been anyone’ dispelling such romantic thoughts. However that ‘anyone’ was of course very special and there was a state of ‘delirium’ comparable to the ‘delirium ‘of the moon-walk, if only to him. A personal journey is far more important.

Then that sad nostalgic reflection … ‘that delirium/ we found is cold and sober now and lost ‘… that the only value of the event, at least the personal event, is a faded memory – and there are regrets that the journey never continued. Perhaps the focus on their relationship has become over magnified on reflecting back on this one highlight after many years. It does give the feeling that it was a never to be repeated event-euphoria similar to the moon-walk.

In the final stanza he wishes his thoughts could journey to her wherever she is in the world, but of course he is caught up alone in this bitter sweet memory – for he is talking to himself as he walks through the reflective mind of a lost love.

Stephen Edgar is a contemporary Australian poet and … a link on Wikipedia … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Edgar