‘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 6 January 2013


Busy with two things this year, at least as the year relates to this blog.  One is Landor and the other is Coleridge.  As far as 'one' goes: I wrote a book, a critical monograph, called Landor's Cleanness; it looks like Oxford University Press are going to publish this, perhaps in 2014. At the moment I'm working through the two readers' reports on the initial manuscript, which contain some extremely useful pointers as to how to improve it.  And 'the other' relates to an edition of the Biographia Literaria I'm currently pulling into shape.  I intend to use this blog as a hidden-in-plain-view public notebook for my thoughts and process. At least one eye (mine) will be on it.

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