‘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, 27 June 2014

Aeschylus in Elizabethan English

The opening speech of the Agamemnon, of course: possibly the single most translated-into-English chunk of any Attic tragedy (possibly the most translated piece of Ancient Greek tout court. Here are a dozen or so samples compared). I have no qualms about adding to that heap; I just wonder whether my Marlovian pastiche is rich enough.

[Here the Curtaines draw, there is discovered the House of Atreus in Argos, and one Watchman]

Heaunely Gods! Set me from labours free!
A twelfmonth haue I languishéd, awatch,
Upon my elbows piuote, on the roof
Of Atreus High Palace, like some dog.
Too well I ken the radiant shapes of starres,
Nightes blazing Emperie, that leades the host
Of yce brighte winter and of summer too.
I know theyr rising and theyr setting times.
And soo I watch, and wait the signal pyre,
Whose burning here will tell us Troye is ashes!

My commander is my mistress, news-agogg:
Her wommans body seales up a man's heart.
For her I lye here, restlesse all the night,
My dripping bed unuisited by dreames.
Fear my couch companion, pricking me,
For all my wish deuout to close my eyes.
I singe my dittie to beguile the time,
And keep me from the sink of Morpheus.
But aye and always teares distil mine eyes,
For how this hous is falln, onse so great.
If this night only could entice our toil.
O, let the fire of fortune light our darke!

[He seeth the bright beacon shyning in the offe]

Ho! Ho! Most welcome, beames of fire
That splitst the night as Eeos doth the day!
Let daunce all Argos in civilitie,
And marketh joy in this good victorye!

I’ll rowse with shouting Agamemnones wife,
And when she quit her bed, will wake the house
Greet signal fire with hallowed huylaboo.
If Troy hath fallen, as these flames vouchsafe
None shall be primer to the daunce than I.
I mingle luck with noble master mine,
The dies haue caste thrice sicxes in my game!

Depryue me not my kinge and his return,
His glad hand gryping mine. As for the rest,
I'll speake not, cattle stands fast on my tonge.
House! Had you speech, what storyes you gan tell!
My words march out in triumph to the trow:
Yon others, memory’s a blank for ye.


1 comment:

  1. Very nice. Now if you can get more than three actors on stage at once you'll be cooking with gas.