‘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.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Walter Savage Landor, 'Britannia' (1858)

OK, I said the last one was the last; but this is only one line long, and I rather like the implicit imperial vainglory in it (since Landor himself was a lifelong Republican). It's 'Number 368' of the Dry Sticks, Fagoted, and it reads:
Ubicunque pontus est ibi Britannia est.

Wheresoever is the sea, there is Britain.
It was, it seems, a phrase often quoted by British writers in the second half of the 19th-century, to stress our imperial reach and manifest destiny (check it out; scroll down past the first hit, which is Landor's original). What's really interesting about this is that Landor is riffing (as it were) off another famous Republican poet and Latinist, John Milton. In a letter of 15 August 1666, to Peter Heimbach, Milton wrote: 'Ubicunque est bene, Patria est': 'wheresoever one is happy, that is one's homeland'. A rather different sentiment, I'd say!

Right: definitely enough Landorian Latin, now. Onwards!

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