‘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 13 June 2013

Bowles 14: On the Ryne

'Twas morn, and beauteous on the mountain's brow,
(Hung with the blushes of the bending vine)
Stream'd the blue light, when on the sparkling Ryne
We bounded, and the white waves round the prow
In murmurs parted:—varying as we go,
Lo! the woods open, and the rocks retire,
Some Convent's ancient wall, or glist'ning spire,
'Mid the bright landscape's track, unfolding slow.
Here dark with furrowed aspect, like despair,
Hangs the bleak cliff—there on the woodland's side
The shadowy sunshine pours its streaming tide,
Whilst hope, inchanted with the scene so fair,
Would wish to linger many a summer's day,
Nor heeds how fast the prospect winds away.
'Beauteous' is a word Bowles overuses (and all his mountains appear to have brows); but this is otherwise an uncharacteristically lovely and vigorous piece of poetry. I especially like the 'shadowy sunshine': it suggests the sort of bright sunshine that casts clear, distinct shadows, I suppose; but it flirts just enough with a kind of oxymoronic contradiction (sunshine is the opposite of shadow, after all)—almost a Miltonic darkness visible—to spin-off a little spark of proper poetic effectiveness. Plus: I vastly prefer this spelling of Rhine. We should petition Parliament to have it adopted over here. Ryne. Lovely!

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