‘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, 8 February 2014

Subterranean Rivers in the 18th-Century 1: West

Following on from this post: here's a chunk from Thomas West's celebrated A Guide to the Lakes in Cumberland, Westmoreland and Lancashire (1778). Coleridge owned a copy of this title.
We were persuaded to climb up to the top of the base of Gragarth, the mountain in whose side Yordas is situated, in order to see Cingling-cave. ... This natural curiosity is a round aperture; narrow at the top, but most probably dilating in its dimensions to a profound extent. The stones we threw in made an hollow gingling noise for a considerable time. At intervals we could hear nothing of their descent, then again we heard them resound in deeper keys, tilt they were either immersed in some deep pool or were arrived at too great a distance to be heard; for there seemed a variety of different passages for their descent, some being much sooner intercepted in their career than others. Two dogs that were with us, and a small horse brought up by one of the party, seemed violently agitated, and under fearful trepidations, under honors resembling those we are told the animal creation are seized with, proceeding or during an earthquake. Though our reason convinced us of the impossibility of the ground falling in beneath us, we could nor but feel many apprehensions accompanied with sensations hitherto unknown. We could not learn that any swain had ever been adventrous enough to be let down in ropes into this vast hiatus, to explore those unseen regions; either from a principle of curiosity, or to search for hidden mines. [251]
Spooky! And I especially like 'gingling'. But on to the river running through caverns measureless to man:
On the other hand was the river roiling down from rock to rock in a narrow deep chasm, where there was no room for human foot to tread between the stream and the rugged, high, steep rocks on each side. Several pieces of the state were bespangled with yellow marcasites of a cubic form, and different sizes, others were gilded over with the various foliages of ferns, pines, oaks, and other vegetables. This bed of state runs nearly from south to north by this place and the quarry neat Thornton-force. Its length may be traced two or three miles, though but 200 or 300 yards in breadth, and indeed of good state but a few yards broad: the plain of the stratum is nearly perpendicular to the horizon, and may afford matter of speculation to the natural philosopher, as to its cause, whether from some melted and liquid matter being forced up these at the deluge, or some subsequent volcano; as it is limestone rock on both the east and west side of it, and apparently severed asunder by the weight of the western stratum separating from the above by its inclination to the vale beneath...

About three miles from Ingleton is the head of the river Wease, or Greta, on the left hand side of the road, only a few yards distant from it. It gusties out of several fountains at once, all within twenty or thirty yards of each other; having run about two miles underground, though making its appearance i:i two or three places, within that distance. When there are floods, it runs also above ground, though not in all places, except the rains are extraordinary great. This is the subterranean river mentioned by Dr. Goldsmith in his entertaining Natural History, Vol. I. by the name of Greatah. The first curiosity we were conducted to was Hurtlspot, about eighty yards above the chapel. It is a round deep hole, between thirty and forty yards diameter, surrounded with rocks almost on all sides, between thirty and forty feet perpendicular above a deep black water, in a subterranean cavity at its bottom. All round the top of this horrid place are trees, which grow secure from the axe; their branches almost meet in the centre, and spread a gloom over a chasm, dreadful enough of itself Without being heightened with any additional appendages: it was indeed one of the most dismal prospects we had yet been presented with. Almost every sense was affected in such an uncommon manner, as to excite ideas of a nature truly horribly sublime. When ever we threw in a pebble 01 spoke a word, our ears were assailed with a dismal hollow sound; our nostrils were affected with an uncommon-complication of strong smells, from the ramps and 9ther weeds that grew plentifully about its sides, and the rank vapours that exhaled from the black abyss beneath. The descent of. Æneas into the infernal regions come again fresh into my imagination, and the following passage out of Virgil obtruded itself on my memory.
facilis descensus Averno;
noctes atque dies patet atri ianua Ditis &c.
While we were standing on the margin of this subterranean lake we were suddenly astonished with a most uncommon noise on the surface of the water under the pendant rocks. It is called by the country people Hurtlepot-boggart, and sometimes the Fairy-churn, as a churn it resembles. It is no doubt frightful to them, and would have been so to us, if we had not been apprized of the cause. We found it was effected by the glutting of the surface of the water against the bottom of some rocks or passages worn into them to a considerable distance, when it was descending aster rain, as then happened to be the case. This deep is not without its inhabitants; large black trouts are frequently caught in it by the neighbouring people. Botanists find here some rare and curious plants.
That's all cool; but West saves the most Sublime for the end of the passage:
We came to Weathercoate-cave or cove, the most surprising natural curiosity of the kind in the island of Great Britain. It is a stupendous subterranean cataract in a huge cave, the top of which is on the fame level with the adjoining lands. On our approach to its brink, our ears and eyes were equally astonished with the sublime and terrible. The margin was surrounded with trees and shrubs, the foliage of which was of various shapes and colours, which had an excellent effect, both in guarding and ornamenting the steep and rugged precipices on every side. Where the eye could penetrate through the leaves and tranches, there was room for the imagination to conceive this cavern more dreadful and horrible, is possible, than it was in reality. This cave is of a lozenge form, and divided info two by a rugged and grotesque arch of limestone rock: the whole length from south to north is about sixty yards, and the breadth about half its length. At the south end is the entrance down into the little cave; on the right of which is a subterranean passage under the rocks, and a petrifying well: a stranger cannot but take notice of a natural seat and table in a corner of this grotesque room, well suited for a poet or philosopher; here he may be secluded from the hudle of the world, though not from noise; the uniform roaring however of the cascade will exclude from the ear every other sound, and his retirement will conceal him from every object that might divert the eye. Having descended with caution from rock to rock, we passed under the arch, and came into the great cave, where we stood sometime in silent astonishment to view this amazing cascade. The perpendicular height of the north corner of this cave, was found by an exact admeasurement to be thirty-six yards: near eleven yards from the top issues a torrent out of an hole in the rock, about the dimensions of a large door in a church, conveying usually as much water as the new river at London. It rushes forwards with a curvature which shews, that it has had a steep descent before it appears in open day; and tumbles precipitate twenty five yards perpendicular down on the rocks at the bottom, with a noise that amazes the most intrepid ear. The water sinks as it falls amongst the rocks and pebbles, running by a subterranean passage about a mile, where it appears again by the side of the turnpike road, visiting in its way the other caverns of Gingkpot and Hurtlepot. The cave is filled with the spray that arises from the water dashing against the bottom, and the fun happening to shine very bright, we had a small vivid rainbow within a few yards of us, for colour, size, and situation, perhaps no where else to be equalled.
'a natural seat and table in a corner of this grotesque room, well suited for a poet or philosopher' indeed! It doesn't address the question of how many people believed that the ocean supplied springs and rivers via secret underground waterways, though.

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