‘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, 28 August 2013

Mr Tuesday

This is an arresting true-life story from the Midlands (from here [pdf]):
When Janet and I lived in Stoneleigh Road before moving to the Village, we became acquainted with this gentleman, who had made his home in South Wainbody Woods, under the branches with a roof of black polythene sheeting suspended overhead. His name we never knew other than as Mr Tuesday which he explained was the day on which he arrived in Coventry. He had a few blankets for his bed and a small log fire on which he cooked his meagre meals; only he and his Maker will have known how he endured the cold of the long winter months. We have no idea what rations he bought or on which he survived beyond what may have been provided by friends and kind neighbours. I and others who had conversations with him found him well spoken and obviously well educated; to my knowledge he read the classics, mainly in Latin, sometimes in Greek. He kept in touch with world affairs by a small mobile radio and through the Times newspaper which some kindly person provided for him.

On Tuesday, 11th October [2011], 27 friends gathered at Oakley Wood Crematorium to bid farewell to this very fine gentleman, whose name and origins none of us knew; nor, so far as I know, could he be identified by the Police or Coroner. Whilst the police knew of him and his ‘home’ and kept an eye out for him, they had no idea of, or record of, his identity. At his funeral service he was simply listed as ‘Mr Tuesday’.

From the very limited information we had gleaned from him, it appeared that he had been born in Newcastle on Tyne in November 1929; at some 50 years of age, in 1980 or thereabouts, he left the ‘Gold Pavements’ of London, having decided to walk away from his former life. He kept walking and, I imagine more by chance than intention, he arrived in Coventry. He rented a room in Earlsdon until his money ran out, when he was forced to take to the Woods, making his home some few hundred yards to the north of King’s Hill Lane. He must have had a very hardy constitution to have survived the rigours of the English winters, bitter during recent years.

Remarkably, he survived for 20 years or more, without ailing (so far as I know), though his heart finally failed him, unexpectedly, during September. There are many unanswered questions; perhaps they never will be answered about this amazing character. Who was he, what was his upbringing and education, his employment, why did he forsake the conventional life for a home and survival in the woods? Why, evidently, no pension or social security benefits? All I do know is that he was a lovely man that one could not fail to respect and whom I was privileged to have met.
It's like the topic for a golden-decade Wordsworth poem, translated into the 21st-century.

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