‘Could a rule be given from without, poetry would cease to be poetry, and sink into a mechanical art. It would be μóρφωσις, not ποίησις. The rules of the IMAGINATION are themselves the very powers of growth and production. The words to which they are reducible, present only the outlines and external appearance of the fruit. A deceptive counterfeit of the superficial form and colours may be elaborated; but the marble peach feels cold and heavy, and children only put it to their mouths.’ [Coleridge, Biographia ch. 18]

‘ποίησις’ (poiēsis) means ‘a making, a creation, a production’ and is used of poetry in Aristotle and Plato. ‘μóρφωσις’ (morphōsis) in essence means the same thing: ‘a shaping, a bringing into shape.’ But Coleridge has in mind the New Testament use of the word as ‘semblance’ or ‘outward appearance’, which the KJV translates as ‘form’: ‘An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form [μóρφωσις] of knowledge and of the truth in the law’ [Romans 2:20]; ‘Having a form [μóρφωσις] of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away’ [2 Timothy 3:5]. I trust that's clear.

There is much more on Coleridge at my other, Coleridgean blog.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Neo Latin 2

This from Alexander Murray, 'Out Of Limbo' [TLS January 11 2013, 3], a review of Ronald G. Witt, The Two Latin Cultures and the Foundation of Renaissance Humanism in Medieval Italy (Cambridge Univ. Press 2012):
Witt gives pride of place to two Paduans ... Doyen of what he calls the "first generation of humanists" was a lawyer, Lovato de' Lovati (d.1309) whose poetry, most of it now lost, was to win the only praise Petrarch ever gave to a Latin poet between antiquity and his own time. Lovato's disciple, Albertino Mussato (d.1329) became a doyen of the "second generation". Mussato has long been known for his claim that the classics were as divinely inspired as theology.
This is the really interesting part, I think:
Aficianados of Erich Auerbach's Mimesis will find special interest in the argument that Mussato's revival of classical Latin refined public perceptions of space and time, especially time ... we learn how, by poring for years on the tenses, moods, pronouns and clauses of classical historians, Mussato was able to conceive more precisely the temporal relations in and between events. It seems he was the first European since antiquity known to have celebrated his own birthday.
Very cool.

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