‘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.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Aristophanes in Elizabethan English

One last sojourn in the Elizabethan idiom, for the most famous scene from Aristophanes' Frogs. After all, everybody knows how hilarious Elizabethan and Jacobean comedies are, right?
DIONYSIS
Pull oar, he saieth! How? Put to what shifts, as poor sea-saylors be oft-times? Neither open ocean nor close battaile has euer embroiled me. Dost thou account me Salamis-seaman? Sirrah, dost think me oar puller?

CHARON
Tut sirrah, no more flaundering. See how facile is the strike, how easie al. Come now, and hearken to the songs yon oar shal stirre i'the pot with their guideing motion.

DIONYSIS
Whose songs bee these?

CHARON
The swansong of the froggs; nay whyte as egg the Frogg Swans. How close they do resemble Swans you soon shall see. Such charms!

DIONYSIS
Giue me but word.

CHARON
I, marry, sir, Ile marle you.

[Enter FROGGS from both flankes of the stage, to daunce about the boat, and sing]

FROGGS
Brake eggs, eggs, eggs, cutt-axe, cutt-axe
Brake eggs, eggs, eggs, cutt-axe, cutt-axe
We children o'the lea and the bubbld spring
In harmony
Do sing,
Brake eggs, eggs, eggs, cutt-axe, cutt-axe
Brake eggs, eggs, eggs, cutt-axe, cutt-axe
Oh doe we lifte our voices throgh the crackes
And loudely our sweet song cutt-axe, cutt-axe
In honour of Ioue’s son Dionyse
And of the marshes hard by Mountains Nyse
The song we sang most choppily
When the swag-head drunkards rold
When murraind on the marche did lye
And broke ope eury winepot they did hold.
Brake eggs, eggs, eggs, cutt-axe, cutt-axe
Brake eggs, eggs, eggs, cutt-axe, cutt-axe

DIONYSIS
Cut axe al daie, youle cleaue my arse in twain.

FROGGS:
So sing we brake eggs, brake eggs againe

DIONYSIS
Go void: Ile haue ye purged if ye go onn.

FROGGS
And yet is cutt-axe, cutt-axe stil our song.

DIONYSIS
Brake eggs, brake eggs, Ile brake ye with this oar.
To Hades with ye, troble me no more.

FROGGS
O can you take aprysal of us now?
Hearken!
The Muses, plaiers of the charming lyre,
Adore us: ours a song that cannot tyre.
Pan, with horned feet and gladsom reed
Harp-strucke Apollo, loue us for our brede
That we growe instruements within our pond
And coniure musick with our rustic wand.
Thus
Brake eggs, eggs, eggs, cutt-axe, cutt-axe
Brake eggs, eggs, eggs, cutt-axe, cutt-axe

DIONYSIS
I, I, my fundamentes al of blysters the size of gooses-O, and soone Ile burst my dish, I prithee. Ye are rogues, sirrahs, who deserue nothing so much as———

FROGGS

Brake eggs, eggs, eggs, cutt-axe, cutt-axe
Brake eggs, eggs, eggs, cutt-axe, cutt-axe

DIONYSIS
What grating prating race is here! Be silent.

FROGGS.
Wele not backetrack, not we batraches.
Wele sing yet louder.
We loue to ruminate a sunny daie,
Through marsh and reed and where the mitdges plaie
Of our owne songs enamoured,
With eache descending siluer note we shed
And when Ioue sendeth raine upon our hed
We diue
Aliue
Into deep watter
And sing, and sing,
Notes cras and flatter
And al brakeing
Our froggishe chorussing.

DIONYSIS, FROGGS:
Brake eggs, eggs, eggs, cutt-axe, cutt-axe
Brake eggs, eggs, eggs, cutt-axe, cutt-axe

DIONYSIS
Thou hast infected me with song.

FROGGS
Contagion is oure musicks idiom.

DIONYSIS
It will be worse for me if I keep at oare. My arse will brake asunder on this benche. O! O!

DIONYSIS, FROGGS:
Brake eggs, eggs, eggs, cutt-axe, cutt-axe
Brake eggs, eggs, eggs, cutt-axe, cutt-axe

DIONYSIS
Prithee scream until your throtes are bags.
Go on as loudly as you wishe. I care not.

FROGGS
I so we shall! cutt-axe, cutt-axe
Wele go on, loud as throte will let us
The liuelong daie
DIONYSIS, FROGGS:
Brake eggs, eggs, eggs, cutt-axe, cutt-axe
Brake eggs, eggs, eggs, cutt-axe, cutt-axe

DIONYSIS
Come come, I doe surpasse you at this game.

FROGGS
By no meanes so.

[Exeunt FROGGS seuerally]

DIONYSIS
Mine the axe to chop up riuall song.
I am surpassing musickal. How lowd
Ile screame and hollow, bellow all the daie.
Until I brake your eggs! Am I alone?

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