‘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.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013


Kids resent going to school because they feel they’re missing out on something. On what? On the magic life of adults? I’m old enough to remember being taken into town by adults who would park me and my sister outside a bookies, or a pub, whilst they popped-in to perform whatever incomprehensible things it was that adults did in such ‘no kids allowed’ venues. Standing on tip-toes to try and see over that portion of the windows opaqued with frosted glass; or snatching glances through the swinging entrance door as people went in, or came out—it was exciting. Of course the glamour of it was wholly a function of its mystery, and now that I am an adult (wa-ay past twenty-one) I understand that there is nothing but seediness beyond the magic door. What adults do when the kids are at school is dull, not glamorous. They go to work. But kids go to school to work too. It’s not much a secret to say that kids go to school not to work at their ‘learning’ so much as to learn work, more specifically to learn the rhythms and habits of work, sitting at a desk, fulfilling tasks handed down by their superiors, keeping regular hours. What happens when you feign sickness and skive off school? You end up watching daytime television, which activity starts out fun, and very quickly becomes boring. But perhaps this is a glimpse into a deeper mystery. What is it adults do all day? They are bored, which situation they fight more-or-less desperate rear-guard actions against, by (amongst other things) visiting betting shops and pubs.

No comments:

Post a Comment