‘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.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Landor's De Papavere Invento (1847)

Hora, ut mos mihi, pomeridiana
Flaventem volui videre messem,
Atque corpora magna rusticorum
Instaurata cibo, quiete, lusu,
Et laeta omnia carmine ac labore.
Ulmi tegmine sub patente sedi.
Permulti pueri, sense, puellae,
Matres, ut sua pensa contigerunt,
Compressam segetem ad latus secabant
Siccataeque prioribus diebus
Ponebant onus, aut gravem et recurvam
Torto stramine ne cadat ligabant.
Me prope advenit una, collocatque
Spicas glauca papavera exhibentes
Et rubras folio cadente florum.
Ut bellam alloquar, increpo otiosam
Quae culmo addita liquerit venena.
Mox altus sopor occupant jacentem,
Et mi diva Ceres adesse visa,
Subridensque, “Meis amice regnis,”
Inquit, “te mea dona sic latebant?”
Horum flava seges opima pars est,
Sed pars altera, nec minor, papaver,
Nec mortalibus accidit deorum
Aegris utilius pruisve munus.
At cave, moneo, cave regressus
Ne, si dixeris id domi forisve,
Te Bacchus male Maenadesque multent,
Queis felix nihil est furoris expers.
Cum natam sequerer negataque esset
Angoremque pati amplius nequirem,
Raptor immiserabilis spopondit
Herbam, qua levior foret, reversae;
Invenique papaver ante portas,
Aerumnisque gravissimis levamen
Sic large super arva seminavi.”

['The Discovery of the Poppy'

At that hour of the afternoon, as usual,
I felt the urge to see the yellow harvest,
and the sturdy bodies of the peasants
refreshed by food and drink, sedately playful,
and singing all their glad songs as they work.
I sat beneath a canopy of elm-trees.
You women watched your multitude of offspring,
Mothers! And now their enterprise is over;
the harvest cut and bound-up on the sideline
left to dry according to tradition,
carefully placed, those heavy, tied-back burdens
plaited straw arranged to stop it falling.
I thought of joining in myself, where I saw
poppies in amongst the green corn growing,
the scarlet petals falling in the harvest.
Like speech in wartime, warning against idleness,
the severed stalks still have their venom in them.
And later, as I lay flat out and sleeping
it seemed the goddess Ceres came to visit,
smiling. "And so my friend, it's now my kingdoms,"
she said to me, "where you seek out your refuge?
The yellow part of that crop's fine, don't doubt it;
but the other portion's just as good -- the poppy:
In fact the truth is neither gods nor mortals
have ever seen before such cure for sickness.
You'd be sad, believe me, sad to give it up
no, you might have said, at home and out of it,
Bacchus's wicked crowd of Maenads chasing you,
whose only joy is found in furious madness.
Let me attend the girl who is denied it
in agony almost beyond endurance
unpitied, a robber, and pledged to her
this plant, to overturn and smooth her anguish.
The poppy can be found before the gateways
to grant relief to the severest suffering,
so broadly sow it now upon your fields."]

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