‘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 11 July 2013

Miasma coleridgeanae

Louis Eugène Marie Bautain, An Epitome of the History of Philosophy: Being the Work Adopted by the University of France for Instruction in the Colleges and High Schools (transl. C S Henry; 2 vols 1841), 194-5
Some of the most interesting things in the writings of Coleridge relate to the differences and to the analogies between life and intelligence, and to the illustration which may be derived to psychology from the consideration of the dynamic forces. From these sources he has drawn many profound and original views, of great importance in their general bearing upon the mechanical philosophy and material psychology. Coleridge borrowed largely from Kant and Schelling; and though, in reading his writings, the impression can hardly be resisted that he was equal to them in original speculative ability, and their superior in learning and critical power, yet, from his indolence, and his want of constructive talent, and particularly the talent for clear and systematic exposition, he has contributed little that will occupy a permanent and substantive place in the general history of philosophy. His writings contain numerous thoughts and fragments of thought, which may continue to be, as they have already been, rich germes, that may be unfolded by meditative minds endowed with more patience and skill in development than he possessed. In this way the influence of Coleridge has been very considerable in opposing the progress of a superficial and materializing spirit in philosophy, and in establishing the foundations of the great truths of morals and religion.
Also, check out: William Mitchell, Thomas Harvey Skinner, Coleridge and the moral tendency of his writings (New York, 1844). The preface begins:
It begins at length to be seen, that the theological mists of Coleridgism have been spreading themselves among us, not without effect. Our divinity professors seem to have thought that they are too much like the comet's hair to have much influence of any kind; but have they not in this instance forgotten that the appropriate title of Satan, as the author of evil, is the prince of the poicer of the air? Minute and invisible causes are often the most powerful. Changes have been occurring during the last ten or fifteen years, to which it is now very manifest these transcendental tenuities have been, in no small measure, causal. Unitarians have become pantheists. Calvinists have exchanged Calvin and Edwards for modern divines of Germany. Satisfaction for sin has been discarded, and the doctrine of at-one-ment substituted for that of the atonement. Preaching, in certain cases, has passed from plain to dreamy and mystical, from shallow to incomprehensible, from commonplace to great seeming profundity. Friends of our religious revivals have become distrustful, if not contemptuous, towards them. Friends of missions have acquired a supersensuous indifference, if not disgust, towards them and almost every other cause of active benevolence. Puritans have adopted the religion of forms. The dark ages, it is contended, are the bright ones. These changes are referrible to a combination of circumstances, but the connexion of the greater part of them with the writings of Coleridge, as a principal cause, can scarcely be questioned by any intelligent observer of events. There is great power in these writings, notwithstanding the subtle, fragmentary, and self-contradictory character of the philosophy which pervades them. They are the production of a man of uncommon and splendid genius, and are exceedingly suggestive of thought and reflection. Their costume is unique, and is often exceedingly interesting and beautiful. They abound in truly profound remarks, and in views of truth, admirably expressed and fortified. Attentive and disciplined readers, whose hearts are established by grace, and whose minds are rooted and grounded in the truth, cannot but glean from the fields to which they are here introduced many a golden sheaf of knowledge to add to their own treasures. It is this character of rare excellence in some things, that gives this author his great power to work mischief. The tendency of his writings, as this Tract will show, is, on the whole, subversive of orthodoxy. It would introduce a system not much preferable to Unitarian ism. When a cup of poison is rendered as nectar by the sweetening, shall the matchless sweetening justify the promiscuous circulation of the cup?

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