‘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.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Bowles 8, On Leaving A Village in Scotland

Clydsdale, as thy romantick vales I leave,
And bid farewell to each retiring hill,
Where musing fancy seems to linger still,
Tracing the broad bright landscape; much I grieve
That, mingled with the toiling croud, no more
I may return your varied views to mark,
Of rocks amid the sunshine tow'ring dark,
Of rivers winding wild, and mountains hoar,
Or castle gleaming on the distant steep!—
Yet still your brightest images shall smile,
To charm the lingering stranger, and beguile
His way; whilst I the poor remembrance keep
Like those, that muse on some sweet vision flown,
To cheer me wand’ring on my way alone.
Clydesdale is not the name of the village confusingly (it's a Scottish district, not a village); though it's not clear to me if this is Bowles's confusion, or whether he means '[Village in] Clydesdale ...' Indeed, I'm not sure it matters; this is surely a general, rather than a particular, poem.

The sonnet rehearses what are, by now, familiar Bowlesian positions without, really, adding anything new: his fondness for remote (Lanarkshire is remote from the perspective of an Anglican living in Oxfordshire, after all), 'romantick', solitary landscapes; his preference for meditative or memorial solitude over the 'toiling croud'. Perhaps the most interesting thing here is in the last five lines, and it's much more Wordsworthian than it is Coleridgean. The idea that natural beauty will live in the imagination and provide a salutory resource for the poet (are the 'stranger' and the Bowlesian 'I' one and the same here, I wonder?) is a main plank of Wordsworth's own, later poetic project. Well, here it is, I guess. In proto-form. I guess.

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