‘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

'Monsieur T. Coleridge'

A link (so I don't lose it) to an intriguing essay in the French journal L'Ambigu, ou, Variétés Littéraires, et Politiques [28 (10 Jan 1810), 3-16] entitled 'Extraits de quelques Lettres publiées dans le Journal (the Courier), par M. T. Coleridge, Auteur d'une Feuille périodique intitulée (The Friend.)' It's interesting that Coleridge reputation was high enough in 1810 for a French journal to consider it worthwhile translating some of his (public) writings on Napoleon (quelques 'expressions dures à l'égard de L'Empereur Français') and the political situation on the Continent. Although his reputation was not high enough for the author, M. Peltier, to realise that his name was not 'T. Coleridge'. Still, you can't have everything. Peltier was a celebrated anti-Napoleonist; and L'Ambigu was an emigre publication, French-language but produced and sold in London (subscriptions were, the title page informs us, an eye-watering five guineas a year).


  1. Looking into this a little more, here's David Erdman.

    ‘In Sept 1802 Stuart told Coleridge that his essays comparing France to Roe were being translated for Peltier’s anti-Napoleonic French-language journal … Peltier does not appear to have carried out the intention, but Coleridge must thenceforth have supposed that he was reaching a French audience including Bonaparte’, [David V. Erdman (ed), Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge 3: Essays on His Times in The Morning Post and The Courier, Part 1 (1978), 228]

    'Peltier does not appear to have carried out the intention...' Ah but he did! It just took him nearly seven years.

  2. "... comparing France to Roe ..." >> Rome