‘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

'Common Sense' on Coleridge (and Keats)

This is liable to be the last of these for a while: another almost-wholly-unknown literary satire, although this one is a little better than most of them:
Poor Coleridge! his is no affected rant,
He lives on opium, and he studies Kant;
Not over clear at first, what mortal brain
Opium and Kant together could sustain?
He sung, O Cristabelle, in all his glory,
Thy "singularly wild and beauteous story;"
Which what it means, and what it is about,
No commentator ever has made out:
He had the night-mare, dreamed of Kubla-Khan,
Then plunged into the Metropolitan:
He mounted next the tub, and long and loud
Poured his lay sermons o'er the astonished crowd:
And last, when opium's frantic transport fails,
And Kant thy gentler influence prevails,
Through the wide town advertisements are spread-
The poet lectures at a crown a-head.
[Charles Hughes Terrot, Common Sense: A Poem (1819), 8-9] ]
I also like his reference, on p.1, to Keats. Terror assures the reader that s/he will find in the volume 'Plain common sense, but no ecstatic feats,/And rhymes at least as good as Mister Keates' and adds a footnote explaining the reference:
Mr. John Keates, the muse's child of promise, is a rising poet of the Cockney School; who, if he had but an ear for rhyme, a little knowledge of grammar, and sufficient intellect to distinguish sense from nonsense, might perhaps do very well.
Hmm. What did happens to Mister Keates, I wonder?

No comments:

Post a Comment