‘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.

Wednesday 16 January 2013


Well, this is very interesting:
A spotlight is thrown on Hungarian humanism, which was lively and interesting--in his presidential address, Jean-Louis Charlet reminds us that until as late as 1844 Latin was the official language of Hungary (which makes Walter Savage Landor’s recommendation that Latin be the official language of the newly-founded Italian state less silly than it might otherwise seem). [Dana F. Sutton, reviewing Rhoda Schnur (ed.), Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Budapestinensis: Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Congress of Neo-Latin Studies, Budapest, 6-12 August 2006, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2011.06.34]
There's still the sense that, with Landorian or other Romantic and Victorian writers' Latin, we're at the end of something rather than the beginning. But it would be a mistake to project twentieth- or twenty-first century attitudes about nationhood and Volkisch identity onto the early nineteenth. Making a new nation was a project caught between two impulses in this period: the desire (as with America) to build a fundamentally Classicised new republic, the city on the hill; and the desire (as with the emergance of Germany) to shape a single nation out of an aboriginal language, culture and people. Also from that review (really interesting stuff, all of it):
No historian, for example, appears to have studied the position of Latin Secretary in England. This was instituted by Henry VII (whose importance in introducing humanism into England is often underrated), who appointed the Italian immigrant Andrea Ammonio, one of the cadre of continental humanists with whom he surrounded himself (Polydore Vergil being the best known) to this position, no doubt because he could not find any Englishman qualified for the task. In later times this grew to be an important and prestigious job: the Latin Secretary had a seat on the Privy Council and the position was occupied, among others, by Roger Ascham and John Milton (who published a volume of his official correspondence)
The larger question of 'Neo-Latin literature' is an important one:
There is still an urgent need to unify Neo-Latin studies, and to treat Neo-Latin poetry as a literary commonwealth. Only in this way can we achieve a suitable perspective for studying the similarities and convergences among Neo-Latin poets or between Latin and vernacular poetry. Walther Ludwig's opinion concerning the study of the elegy is also valid with respect to other genres of Neo-Latin poetry. Scholars who dealt with the history of poetry did it 'within the borders of national literature," being "amazingly unaware of, or unconcerned with, the works produced in neighbouring countries and read perhaps not only there." [Elwira Buszewicz, 'Buchanan in Poland: Facts, Questions, and Paradoxes' in Rhoda Schnur (ed) Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Bonnensis: Proceedings of the 12th International Congress of Neo-Latin Studies 2003 (Arizona State University Press, 2006), 230]
Sutton disagrees:
there is a second, very different way of approaching Neo-Latin literature. While some works may have been purposefully written for an international audience, the bulk of Neo-Latin literature was meant for consumption by the author's fellow countryman. The author may have been operating under the influence of items in his or her national vernacular literature, may have influenced the composition of subsequent vernacular ones, may have even written in both Latin and his or her native tongue, and in any event reflects the concerns, prejudices, and sensibilities of his or her immediate time and place. As such, albeit written in Latin, such literature essentially belongs to the author's national heritage. Historians of individual national literatures often display equally amazing ignorance of Latin written by authors belonging to the nation in question, and surely it is an important task for Neo-Latin studies to remedy this ignorance. Buszewicz, in essence, recommends an international vision of Neo-Latin studies. Both by personal inclination and as matter of practicality, I myself tend to favor a considerably more nationalistic one.
I think I'm with Buszewicz on this.

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