‘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.

Friday, 10 July 2015


If it weren't for the restrictions of copyright, I'd quite like to write a Grendel-style novel that retold the events of Harry Potter from the point of view of the Dementors. I mean, don't you wonder what the world looks like to them? How does it feel for them to consume the happiness of other beings? Do they experience the emotions they devour as happiness and joy? Might it be that this predation provides their only chance for happiness?

Imagine yourself a member of an intelligent, sentient species doomed to pass your life in sorrow and despair except when you are able to feast upon the happiness of others. What others? Why, these scurrying, diminutive creatures, who seem to spend all their energy and time fighting amongst themselves, trying to outwit and hurt one another, and who despite their gift of joy are so frequently sad and self-obsessed. They have the happiness which you yourself have been denied. Do they deserve it? What is it about their behaviour, their manifest selfishnesses and carelessnesses and violences that leads you to think they do?

No: they are better off without their happiness, for then they at least lose their frantic restlessness and become calm. And why should you live your life in misery when so much happiness is scattered around, unnoticed and unappreciated, waiting for you to harvest it?

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