‘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

True Blue

Last one today, I promise.
"I should so like to read Coleridge," said John, earnestly, having dipped into the volume; "though I must say that he looks a little too philosophical for me;" (I smiled;) "but, as he's a true Blue, I should like to say I had read him."

"Take his 'Friend' John," said I, "and any friend of mine—there are ten of them at your service—and keep it and them till you have done with them, and thoroughly understand them; for I do not." [Cornelius Webbe, Glances at Life in City and Suburbs: Second Series (London 1845), 41-2]

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