‘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.

Saturday 25 October 2014

“Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister”: One Last Note

Today I've been thinking a little about Robert Browning “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister” (1842); and one thing that occurs to me (that never occurred to me before) is that Browning's starting point may have been Thomas à Kempis's Soliloquy of the Soul; and The Garden of Roses. Think of the poem's stress on roses! Think also of Saint Thomas's stress (which Browning's narrator so potently and ironically refutes) on brotherly forgiveness and kindness:
Be kind towards a tempted brother, and pray for an afflicted one as for thyself. Thy good, and my good, are cause of congratulation: thy evil and my evil of compassion. For we are all frail men; and are therefore bound by charity to pray one for another. None can upbraid another with his failings, when he neglects himself. Because when one despises an imperfect brother, it is as if a blind man mocks the blind, a deaf one chides the deaf, and a foolish one scoffs at the foolish. Speak not evil of another, but rather look to thyself, and amend what thou hast done amiss. If thou judgest rightly, and wouldst correct thy neighbour, begin with thyself. And then proceed, not hurriedly, but modestly and discreetly. If thou lovest me sincerely, and as a brother, feel for me, as for thyself, and pray for me. Whoso chides another, and does not pray for and grieve with him, is a cruel enemy, not a good physician, but a troublesome tattler. Whoso prays for another as for himself, doeth a double good. The more he hath of brotherly love, the more willingly does he pray for him, that he may the more perfectly amend, and not offend the eyes of the weak. The more bitterly does he grieve, if he will not hear, and is angry with his adviser. Each one is to another either a fragrant rose, or a piercing thorn.

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