‘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.

Saturday 30 March 2013

O Charitas!

Andreas Spanner, Polyanthea sacra ex universae sacrae scripturae (1715), 225: ‘O charitas! Ordinis regula Electorum, lex legume; Mater, & origo, legum divinarum’ (‘Charity! Order and rule of the elected, law of laws, mother and origin of all divine law’).

Friday 29 March 2013

Casimir's Cicada

By the early seventeenth-century Polish Jesuit and esteemed neo-Latin poet, Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski.


O, quae populea summa sedens coma,
Coeli roriferis ebria lacrymis,
Et te voce Cicada,
Et mutum recreas nemus.

Post longas hiemes, dum nimium brevis
AEstas se levibus praecipitat rotis,
Festinos, age, lento,
Soles excipe jurgio.

Ut se quaeque dies attulit optima,
Sic se quaeque rapit: nulla fecit satis
Umquam longa voluptas,
longus saepius est dolor.


Sitting on the poplar's highest leaf
Skies drowning your drunken tears,
How you sing, cicada,
And refresh the mute grove.

After long winters, through the too-brief
Summer, he shines on wheeling days,
Hurry, come, slowly,
Suns welcome his strife.

Each bright day brings the best of itself,
And then snatches it away: no he did enough
Pleasure always brief,
pain traps us long.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Strange Lights on Mars, 1894

E. S. Holden ['Bright Projections at the Terminator of Mars', Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (December 1894), 284-5] records some strange happenings:
Bright Projections at the Terminator of Mars.

The writer of an unsigned article in Nature for August 2, 1894 (page 319) was apparently first made aware of the fact that bright prominences are to be seen at the terminator of Mars by a note printed in the Astronomische Nachrichten, No. 3245, describing such observations at the Observatory of Nice on July 28. If he had consulted Astronomische Nachrichten, No. 3241, a month earlier, he might have read an account of their observation at the Lick Observatory on June 28. The Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Vol. VI, page 103, contains a paper by Professor Campbell which recites the whole history of such appearances, which should be, one would think, fairly familiar to observers of Mars by this time. True prominences were first observed at the Lick Observatory in 1890; and at the Lick Observatory, at Nice, and at the Arequipa Observatory in 1892. The first prominences of 1894 were seen at Mount Hamilton on June 28, and they have been observed more or less constantly since that time, and will probably be seen after opposition also.

Bright prominences on Mars are of two kinds. The first kind is caused by pure irradiation of a bright region on the terminator over into the adjacent darkness. Such prominences are, therefore, entirely optical in their origin. M. Terby, in 1888, described such appearances ; and they had long been known in connection with the bright polar caps. The second kind of prominences corresponds to elevated regions, highly illuminated, on the planet's surface, which actually project beyond the terminator. They may, conceivably, be due either to clouds or to mountains. The Mount Hamilton observations of 1890 might very well have been explained by the presence of a streak of clouds at a great altitude. (See Publications A. S. P., Vol. II, page 248.)

All the later observations made here by Professors Schaeberle, Campbell, and others, seem to indicate that these veritable prominences are caused by mountain chains lying across the terminator. The prominences appear in the same longitudes and latitudes on the planet night after night and even month after month ; and a map of some of these chains is in preparation. Professor Campbell has shown that the heights of some of these mountains are not over 10,000 feet, and the heights of others appear to be of the same order of magnitude. At the Lick Observatory and at Nice, no observations of bright prominences at the full limb of Mars have been made. There is not the slightest doubt as to the phenomena; and I think there can be no question that the foregoing explanation is correct.

The writer of the article in Nature was clearly not familiar with the literature of the subject. His remarks are given under the striking title " A Strange Light on Mars." After reciting the telegram from Nice he concludes that the news must be accepted seriously and further details awaited anxiously. He concludes further that the light " must either have a physical or a human origin ; so that it is to be expected that the old idea that the Martians are signaling to us will be revived." Of physical origins he suggests three, namely aurora, a long range of snow-capped hills, and forest fires. Irradiation is not mentioned. " Without favoring the signaling idea, before we know more of the observation, it may be stated that a better time for signaling could scarcely be chosen."

It will probably appear unnecessary to anyone who has read the article by Professor Campbell, previously cited, to go so far afield for explanations. To anyone who has actually observed the phenomena in question, night after night, as has been done by all of us at Mount Hamilton, the suggestion that these prominences are signal lights from (possible) inhabitants of Mars is simply preposterous. I can find no milder term.

There are at least five or six telescopes in England which will show these prominences, and as many more on the Continent. So far as I know they have been seen in 1894 only at Mount Hamilton, Nice, and at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona.
Not aliens, then: they didn't even think so in 1894. But wait -- look again at the picture with which the article is illustrated.

I like the little cartoon ghost poking his smiley head in the middle-right image. Well hello there!

Saturday 9 March 2013


Further to this (and, indeed, to this), some notes on late-18th- and early-19th-century Cincinnatism:

Byron’s ‘Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte’ (1814) contrasts the French Emperor’s attitude to power with the sole modern exemplum of the Cincinnatian ideal:
Where may the wearied eye repose
When gazing on the Great;
Where neither guilty glory glows,
Nor despicable state?
Yes—one—the first—the last—the best—
The Cincinnatus of the West,
Whom envy dared not hate,
Bequeath'd the name of Washington,
To make man blush there was but one!
This was something of a commonplace
The example of Cincinnatus, after a lapse of ages, has been revived or exceeded amid the forests of America, by the unassuming cultivator of the banks of the Patowmak. Washington, like the Roman sage, too rich in himself to be seduced by wealth or honours, to forsake the calm enjoyments of domestic life, obeyed again and again the summons of his country, to devote himself to the emergencies of the state.’ [Joseph Sansom, Travels from Paris through Switzerland and Italy: in the years 1801 and 1802 (1808), 125]
In 1791 a certain ‘Mrs Pilkington’ asserted her preference for retirement over public life:
I envy not the proud their wealth,
Their equipage and state:
Give me but innocence and health,
I ask not to be great.

I in this sweet retirement find
A joy unknown to kings,
For sceptres to a virtuous mind
Seem vain and empty things.

Great Cincinnatus at his plow
With brighter lustre shone,
Than guilty Cæsar e'er could know,
Though seated on a throne. [Vicesimus Knox (ed), Extracts, Elegant, Instructive, and Entertaining, in Poetry (1791), 5:360]
This loses some of its force from the reader wondering what opportunities for international statecraft were liable to have presented themselves to Mrs Pilkington in the first place. But the point is that Cincinnatus has become a perfectly conventionalised figure;
See laurel'd Cincinnatus seek his home
Amid the thanks and praise of graceful Rome,
Well pleas'd war's cumbrous pageantry to yield,
Again he cultivates his native field. [Monthly magazine and British Register 9 (1800) 364]
Part of the point of this is to style power, and especially national or military power, as ineluctably corrupting.
A man long accustomed to power, is not happy in a private station’; power is a ‘corrupting habit.’ Reflect upon Cincinnatus, eminent among heroes for disinterested love to his country. Had he been a Briton, a seat in parliament would have gratified his ambition, as affording the best Opportunity of serving his country. In parliament he joins the party that appears the most zealous for the public Being deceived in his friends, patriots in name only, he goes over to the court; and after sighting the battles of the ministry for years, he is compelled by a shattered fortune to accept a post or a pension. Fortunate Cincinnatus! born at a time and in a country where virtue was the passport to power and glory. Cincinnatus, after serving with honour and reputation as chief magistrate, cheerfully retired to a private station, in obedience to the laws of his country:—nor was that change a hardship on a man who was not corrupted by a long habit of power. But wonderful was the change, when the republic by successful wars comprehended great kingdoms. Luxurious and sensual men, who composed the senate, could not maintain their authority over generals who commanded great armies, and were illustrious by conquest. In the civil wars accordingly that were carried on after the death of Julius Cæsar, the legions called from Spain and other distant provinces to defend the senate, deserted all to Antony, or to Lepidus, or to Octavius Cæsar. [Lord Henry Home Kames, Sketches of the History of Man (3rd edition 1779), 1:420]
Cincinnatus is 'lucky', as well as embodying a crucial individual virtue. But the flipside to this was the anxiety that the Cincinnatean model might be used to justify ordinary people assuming positions of power. In other words, it is a question of whether the point of Cincinnatus story is all in its end, where he relinquishes power; or whether a more politically radical moral might not be drawn from it (hey! even humble farmers can be dictators!). This correspondent to the Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle [62:2 (1792), 1165] is keen to deny the latter:
Mr. Hey, in his excellent pamphlet, which you reviewed last month, in the just warmth of his argument against making a ploughman a minister of state, seems to have overshot himself in his assertion respecting the well-known history of Q. Cincinnatus, who was said to have been called from the plough to the consulship.* The fact is, that he had been a man of rank and prosperity, and borne a public character at Rome, till the usurpation of the tribunes, and their partisans the plebeians, reduced him by a heavy fine, unjustly imposed on his son, to sell his estate, and retire to a poor cottage on the other side the Tiber, where he cultivated with his own lands and those of his slaves five or six acres of land which were ail he had left to live on. In this retirement, overwhelmed with grief and poverty, he saw none of his friends, allowed himself no amusement, observed no festivals, nor even went to the city. He was found thus employed, following his plough, when he was sent for to repress the insolence of the people, and supply the, place of one of the consuls, who had been slain in retaking the capital from the Sabines. He left the care of the farm to his wife, and followed the messengers. He soon prevailed with the tribunes to desist from their demand; and having restored the public tranquillity, and assisted at the election of two new consuls, retired to his cottage and his labour as before. He had not been here much above a year before the critical situation, into which the Sabines had drawn the Roman army, made it necessary to appoint a dictator. Cincinnatus was the person pitched on, and was once more torn from his retreat, where he was found in similar circumstances as before. He held this office little more than a fortnight, and returned again to his farm, without accepting any of the handsome presents offered him by his country and his friends . Dionysius Halicarnassensis [X. c. 3 and 5. III.26. Victor de viris illustrib.] repeats the story of his being fetched from his labours at the farm on both occasions; but Livy applies it only to his advancement to the dictatorship. He was created dictator 20 years after, on the nomination of his brother T. Quint. Capitolinus, then consul the 6th time, being in his 80th year [Livy IV 13]. Dionysius apologises for his repeated detail of these circumstances, that he did it to shew the world the true chancier of the Roman magistrates at that time, that they worked with their own hands, lived frugally, were not ashamed of an upright and innocent poverty, and, so far from aspiring to or courting royalty, refused it when offered. How different, adds he, from the conduct of men in our own time! [* Cicero de Fin. II. 4. is the only person who seems to encourage the mistake. “The Epicureans pretend it is not necessary for a philosopher to be a learned man. As our ancestors fetched Cincinnatus from the plough to make him dictator, so you fetch all your good men out of Greece, but certainly not very learned."]
This moral established, the letter goes on to elaborate a point about the wealth of nature as against the value of money, anticipating and perhaps influencing (it seems to me) Wordsworth's Michael.
The Spot where Cincinnatus lived was in the place called the Quintian Meadows, over-against the docks in the Tiber, near the city in the Vatican district, at present between the Vigna di Madama, the porta del popolo, and the castle of St. Angelo. Here, says Livy, those who account nothing preferable to riches, and think honour and virtue of no value without wealth, let them know that in this spot lived the only hope of Rome. … The circumstance which impaired Cincinnatus’s fortune was the heavy bail required for his son’s appearance. Nine securities were bound in 3000 asses of brass each, which Dr Arbuthnot puts at £9. 13s 9d each. The total amount of the bail therefore which the father was cruelly compelled to pay was £96. 17s. 6d. Livy remarks that it was the first instance of bail being demanded in public cases at Rome. … Valerius Maximus [IV. 4. 7] says, "Cincinnatus had at first seven acres, of which he forfeited three for a friend, for whom he was bound to the treasury (quae pro amico ad aerarium obsignaverat multa nomine amist), and with the produce of this little field he paid his son’s fine; yet, even when ploughing these four acres, he not only kept up the dignity of his family, but was appointed dictator. Men now think themselves confined if they have not houses that cover as many acres."

Wednesday 6 March 2013

George 'Cincinnatus' Washington

Garry Wills, Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment: Images of Power in Early America, (Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1984).

The crucial enactment of this virtue and the key to Washington's stature among his contemporaries was his willingness to surrender power. Americans of the Enlighten- ment, Wills argues, needed a special kind of hero. They were trying to govern them- selves by the light of their own reason, and they needed evidence that they could succeed. Washington's accomplishments?combined with his carefully dramatized re- spect for republicanism?as army commander, constitution-maker, and chief executive made him not a divine emperor but a republican hero who typified in a more nearly perfect way the virtue that he and his fellow citizens shared. What could better link Washington with the people than his readiness to rejoin them as a private citizen? What could make him more worthy to hold power than his conspicuous refusal to prolong or abuse it? What could more fully vindicate self-government than being governed by a Washington? [review by Charles Royster, in The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 93: 3 (1985), 345]

Talking of which, here's a bit from Marianne Moore's 1932 poem, 'The Hero':

Cincinnatus was; Regulus; and some of our fellow
men have been, though

devout, like Pilgrim having to go slow
to find his roll; tired but hopeful
hope not being hope
until all ground for hope has
vanished; and lenient, looking
upon a fellow creature's error with the
feelings of a mother-a
woman or a cat. The decorous frock-coated Negro
by the grotto

answers the fearless sightseeing hobo
who asks the man she's with, what's this,
what's that, where's Martha
buried, "Gen-ral Washington
there; his lady, here"; speaking
as if in a play-not seeing her; with a
sense of human dignity
and reverence for mystery, standing like the shadow of the willow.

Moses would not be grandson to Pharaoh.
It is not what I eat that is
my natural meat,
the hero says. He's not out
seeing a sight but the rock
crystal thing to see-the startling El Greco
brimming with inner light-that
covets nothing that it has let go. This then you may know
as the hero.

Tuesday 5 March 2013

James Henry, 'Byron' (1859)

From Poematia (1866). A not untypical High Victorian attitude to Byron, actually.

The proud son of a vicious, heartless father,
The vain son of a weak, indulgent mother,
The tyrant husband of a blameless wife,
The sentimental sire of one unhappy
Legitimate daughter — of how many more,
Unhappy chance-sown, he knows not, nor cares —
See where before the world, for admiration,
With front unblushing, George Lord Byron stands
And wins of the whole world the admiration,
Pugilist, fencer, brawler, spendthrift, rake,
Lover of bull-dogs, friend of ribald Little,
Bully of Harrow school, ere quite fourteen,
Champion, at thirty-six, of rebel Greece,
All his life long, bad poet and worse man.
Hide, hide your heads, ye virtuous, learned, and wise;
Follow Astraea, Muses, to the skies.
Rosamond, Sept. 12, 1859.

Monday 4 March 2013

Landor, 'Ad Poetam' (1847)

Ad Poetam. xxix

Scribe, te simul atque pungit œstrus,
Ne campus misere areat morato.
Si prœsto nihil est boni aut faceti,
Scribe: mens calamo calet calenti.

To a poet.

Write! As soon as fury jabs you,
Don't, sad, cede the battle then.
If nothing good or smart redeems it
Write hot mind with scalding pen.

Saturday 2 March 2013

Samuel Bowden, 'Verses in Praise of an Eminent Old Speaker Among the Quakers' (1754)

The full title is 'Verses in PRAISE of an Eminent Old SPEAKER Among the QUAKERS. Remarkable for his Venerable BEARD and SANCTITY OF MANNERS.’ Er, in that order?
In thee, O! venerable sage! we find
Simplicity of manners, and of mind:
With grave demeanor, and majestic grace,
A philosophic beard adorns thy face;
Humble deportment, free from pride appears,
And calls for sacred homage to thy years.
Like trees in blossom snowy age has shed
Its hoary honours o'er thy reverend head.
Let the vain world external pomp adore,
And worship fools with tinsel varnish'd o'er;
In vain unthinking fops thy garb despise,
Whose merit only in the outside lies;
In In vain deride the quaker's simple dress,
What more than nature wants is all excess.
What more than cold requires, or hunger needs,
Only our folly, or our luxury feeds.
Content with little, and with virtue blest,
Vain, and superfluous, is all the rest.
Thy dress is such as cloath'd the antient sage,
And patriarchs wore in the primæval age.
'Twas thus the old philosophers were clad,
E're the vain world grew dissolute and mad.
'Twas thus the Druids liv'd, the Bramins drest,
And all the sapient Magi of the east.
Thus Quintus liv'd, and rigid Cato shin'd,
E'er vice prevail'd, and polish'd Rome declin'd.
Who guided armys, and the truncheon bore,
With the same hand, which held the plough before.
'Twas thus Lycurgus form'd the Spartan state,
Plain in their manners, but in virtue great.
[Bowden, Poems on Various Subjects (1754), 204]