‘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 27 June 2013

Coleridge on Ballads

Where did Coleridge remark this? I'm hoping it was in conversation, or in a lecture, and that it has not otherwise been recorded (offhand I can't place it otherwise; but I may well be wrong about that):
There are many masons why ballads are likely to be better than any other species of poems. As being composed for the people, they would be in the language of the people, the language of life and passion. Passing from one recitor to another, from generation to generation, frequent additions would be made, and such only as improved the poem would adhere to it. And as we heard well remarked by Mr. Coleridge; in oral recitation all the feebler parts would be dropt in process of time, and hence they have obtained that boldness with which they so frequently open, and those exquisite transitions which we so justly admire; while all other compositions of the same age are weakened by prolixity.
['Scottish Historical and Romantic Ballads', The Annual Review for 1808 7 (1809), 457]

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