‘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.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


I've started buying CDs again.

I have, for decades now, been listening to music through earbuds. I listen to music when I write (and I write a lot), so that's been god knows how many tens of thousands of hours of often loud-volume earbud usage. But latterly I've started worrying about the longer-term health of my hearing. Now much of my writing happens in coffee shops, where earbuds are still a necessity; but when I'm in my study, doing writerly stuff at home, I changed my habits. I put a CD in the CD player and listen to it as a sound-surround-y experience. I must say: I like it.

And CDs are everywhere, available to buy from charity shops and eBay for trivial sums of money, as people clear out their obsolete collections of thousands of the buggers they accumulated in the 90s and adjust to the glorious MP3 future where all out music lives inside our phones, or whatever. The other day I went to my local public library and they were having one of their periodic clear-out sales: I bought dozens of CDs, mostly classical, for 50p a go. Now I listen to them. It's great. It's less immediate, of course, aurally speaking; but it has a depth and richness to the experience that I hadn't realise I'd missed.

Then today I read this, which struck me with a force of belated revelation: Nick Messitte's 'How Earbuds Have Changed The Sound And Business of Pop'.
"This ... accounts for some of the sonic hallmarks of today’s pop music–that which audiences either love or flock to criticize: the aggression of today’s material, the piercing qualities of its vocalists, its unrelenting loudness, its synthetically undynamic nature. All of these features can be traced, in part, to the ways producers must represent certain frequencies for your earbuds. If they didn’t, it wouldn’t sell."


  1. It's not quite clear whether your concern is primarily aural or monetary but: why not just buy lossless digital download music and play it through your stereo speakers?

    I buy it as CD or better quality digital downloads mostly. You can also stream it e.g. http://www.qobuz.com/gb-en/offers/music-streaming-subscription

  2. You mean, buy some speakers for my PC and play music through them? I could do. But I already own a CD player, and at the moment second hand CDs are considerably cheaper than bought downloads.

  3. Someone I've forgotten pointed out that the sounds of British pop music from the 70s onward were those that Medium Wave Radio One was good at. It wasn't good at bass apparently.

    Come to think about it, a character comments on the BBC not doing bass properly in a Moorcock novel, probably The Adventures of Catherine Cornelius and Una Persson in the Twentieth Century.