‘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.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Casimir's Cicada

By the early seventeenth-century Polish Jesuit and esteemed neo-Latin poet, Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski.

AD CICADAM.

O, quae populea summa sedens coma,
Coeli roriferis ebria lacrymis,
Et te voce Cicada,
Et mutum recreas nemus.

Post longas hiemes, dum nimium brevis
AEstas se levibus praecipitat rotis,
Festinos, age, lento,
Soles excipe jurgio.

Ut se quaeque dies attulit optima,
Sic se quaeque rapit: nulla fecit satis
Umquam longa voluptas,
longus saepius est dolor.


TO THE CICADA.

Sitting on the poplar's highest leaf
Skies drowning your drunken tears,
How you sing, cicada,
And refresh the mute grove.

After long winters, through the too-brief
Summer, he shines on wheeling days,
Hurry, come, slowly,
Suns welcome his strife.

Each bright day brings the best of itself,
And then snatches it away: no he did enough
Pleasure always brief,
pain traps us long.


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