‘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.

Friday, 26 July 2013


From Horace in London (1813); Ode 34.
Parcus Deorom cultor et infrequent

Inveigled by Hume from the Temple of Truth,
From Piety's sheepfold a stray lamb,
I laugh'd and I sang, a mere reprobate youth,
As seldom at church as Sir Balaam.

But now through a crack in my worldly wise head
A ray of new light sheds a, blaze,
And back, with the speed of a zealot, I tread
The wide metaphysical maze.

Of late through the Strand as I saunter'd away,
A curricle gave me new life,
For oh! in that curricle, spruce as the day,
Sate Coelebs In Search Of A Wife.

Majestic as thunder he roll'd through the air,
His horses were rapidly driven;
I gaz'd like the pilgrim in Vanity Fair,
When Faithful was snatch'd into Heaven.

Loud bellow'd the monsters in Pidcock's abyss,
Old vagabond Thames caught the sound,
It shook the Adelphi, it scar'd gloomy Dis,
And Styx swore an oath underground.

The puritan rises, philosophy falls,
When touch'd by his harlequin rod;
The cobler and prelate from separate stalls,
Chaunt hymns to the young demigod.

The beardless reformer leaves London behind,
He wanders o'er woddland and common,
And dives into depths theologic to find
That darkest of swans—a white woman.

The Pilgrim of Bunyan felt wiser alarms—
His darling at home could not bind him;
Twas Death and the Devil when lock'd in her arm;
'Twas Heaven—when he left her behind him.
Is this a dig at Coleridge? If so, what was the gossip connecting him with 'a white woman'?

No comments:

Post a Comment