‘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 June 2014

The Apollo Programme; or Why We're Not Going Back to the Moon Anytime Soon

NASA scientist Richard Hoover once related a little story (I saw this years ago on a TV documentary; a Horizon, I think). He said there was a time when he used to set off to work in the mornings, and the neighbour’s dog would come yapping and running after his car, until the point he picked up enough speed to leave the dog behind. The dog (as dogs often are) was clearly very excited and agitated by the passage of Hoover’s automobile; but it was doomed to eternal frustration since its little legs could never move quick enough to catch up. But one day, out of mere curiosity, Hoover decided to give the dog what it wanted. He started driving, and when the dog came scuttling out of his neighbour’s drive he pulled to a stop and watched what the dog did. And what did it do? It reached the car, sniffed each of the four wheels in turn, lifted its leg against the driver’s-side rear tyre and relieved itself. Then it went trotting back to its home. ‘And that,’ Hoover concluded, ‘is what we did with the moon. We were so excited by the impossible chase! And then, one amazing day, we reached out impossible target. So we sniffed it, pissed on it, and moved on to other things.’

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