‘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.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Powellian architecture

I'm on the second of Powell's Dance of the Music of Time novels (1952's A Buyer's Market) and enjoying it all very much. Part of the pleasure is the deliberately overegged and rococo descriptions of the landscape of London. Here's the Wellington Arch:
By this time we had come to Grosvenor Place, in sight of the triumphal arch, across the summit of which, like a vast paper-weight or capital ornament of an Empire clock, the Quadriga's horses, against a sky of indigo and silver, pranced desperately towards the abyss. [p. 316]
And here, from earlier in the same chapter, is the Albert Memorial:
We strolled, all three, towards Kensington Gardens. The Row was empty. Sparkles of light radiated this way and that from the clusters of white statuary and nodular gilt pinnacles of the Albert Memorial, towards which we were steadily moving. [251]
Sparkly! You can also see from those page numbers (251 isn't especially near the beginning of that chapter; and 316 not particularly near the end of it) that the chapters are lo-o-ong.

In other news, Nodular Gilt Pinnacles is the name of my next band.


  1. Not the name of your next novel?

    (I've long been meaning to read Powell. Maybe after I work through your oeuvre...)

  2. Or the name of an Iain M. Banks Culture ship?