‘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.

Thursday, 18 April 2013


Via Alan Jacobs:
The Medieval Latin word universitas has no reference to the scope of the curriculum of studies; it stands for the whole gathering, the whole body, of a particular class of persons, and indeed stands very near in meaning to the modern ‘union’ in the term ‘trade union.’ It is all but synonymous, for legal purposes, with the Latin term collegium, and for social comparisons, with the old English word guild. The universitas was first of all the whole body either of the masters or of the students, and then very naturally came to mean their self-governing guild or society. The word did not gain its local or educational connotation till the last phase of the middle ages. [David Knowles, The Evolution of Medieval Thought (1962), 139]

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