‘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.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Anglo-Saxon Dental Treatments

These are great.

They're from T Anderson, 'Dental treatment in Anglo-Saxon England', [British Dental Journal 197 (2004), 273-274]. It is through this article that I learned the name and contents of the most excellently titled 'Leechbooks of Bald'. See, I'm going to tell you that's an actual book; and you're going to carry on believing I made the name up. I can't help that.

Anyhow, this is what Anderson says:
The Leechbooks of Bald. These books, possibly compiled in the ninth century, were copied down in Old English at Winchester in the middle of the tenth century. This makes it the oldest extant vernacular medical work. The MS (Royal 12.d, xvii) is housed at the British Library. The third section, with more magical remedies and charms, most accurately reflects English medical practice of the time, whereas volumes I and II contain more mediterranean influence. Book III contains several vernacular remedies for oral problems:

For toothache:
'...chew pepper often with the teeth, it will soon be better for him. Again boil henbane's root (Hyoscyamus niger) in strong vinegar or in wine, set it on the sore tooth, and let him chew it with the sore tooth sometimes; he will be hale'
A recipe 'For a mouth broken inside':
'take a plum (Prunus domestica) tree's leaf, boil it in wine, let him swill his mouth with it'
Apparently an attempt to combat advanced infection, probably associated with advanced periodontal disease. A remedy against 'hollow teeth' apparently refers to large carious cavities:
'...chew bothen's [? Rosmarinus officinalis] root with vinegar on that side'
A complicated remedy, including phlebotomy, is known for a 'crooked or deficient' mouth. This may refer to a cleft lip or palate:
'...take coriander (Coriandrum sativum), dry it out, make it into dust, mix the dust with the milk of a woman who is feeding a boy-child, wring it out through a blue cloth and smear the healthy cheek with it, and drip it into the ear carefully. Make a bathing, then: take bramble (Rubus fruticosus.) bark and elm (Ulmus campestris) bark, ash (Fraxinus excelsior) bark, blackthorn (Prunus spinosus) bark, apple tree (Pyrus malus) bark, ivy (Hedera helix) bark — the lower parts of all of these — and cucumber, smearwort (Aristolochia rotunda), boarfern (Polypodium vulgare), elecampane (Inula helenium), elfthon (Circaea lutetiana), betony (Stachys betonica), horehound (Marrubium vulgare), radish (Raphanus sativus), agrimony (Potentilla anserina), scrape the plant into a cauldron and boil them thoroughly. Once it is thoroughly boiled, take it off the fire and let it stand and make the man a seat over the cauldron and cover the man so that the vapour cannot get out anywhere except that he might breathe it in. Bathe him with this bathing for as long as he can bear it. Have another bathe ready for him then, take an entire anthill — of those that sometimes fly, it will be red — boil it in water, bathe him with it, with excessive heat. Then make him a salve: take some plants of each of those kinds, boil in butter, smear the sore parts with it, they will soon come back to life. Make him a lye from elder (Sambucus niger) ashes, wash his head with it cold, it will soon be better for him; and let the man's blood each month on a five-night-old moon, and on a fifteen, and on a twenty'
That last one is especially marvellous. The incredibly complicated herbal mixture I can just about see; but 'take an anthill, boil him, make the patient sit over the cauldron to breathe in the boiled-anthill-vapour ...' is beyond the comprehension of a simple fellow like me to fathom.

In other news, Boiled Anthill Vapour is the name of my next band.

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