‘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 13 December 2014

Walter Savage Landor, 'Dolendus' (1858)

Another piece of Landorian Latin from Dry Sticks Fagoted. I had several goes at this: it's a little tricky to get right. 'Dolendus' is the gerund of 'deleo', which means both 'physical pain, hurt, suffering' and 'mental pain, grief, lamenting' [update: my mistake. Phil, in the comments, is right: this is the Gerundive, not the Gerund--'to be lamented', 'lamentable']. 'Dolentur', in the first line, means 'with pain or sorrow, painfully', and the repetition of terminology is hard to recapture in English. The sense, broadly, is: 'Unhappiness itself is when a man unhappily says ['dixerit' is third-person singular perfect active subjunctive of dīcō, 'I say', and the subjunctive is famously tricky to put across in English] he had once been a friend, now he is unworthy of that name.'

Dolendus ille qui dolenter dixerit
Erat olim amicus, esse nunc indignus est.

The saddest thing is that man who'll sadly say
He who'd been a friend once is unworthy today.

Suffering itself: the man who will sadly say
He was my friend once, but he is not so today.

Grievousness itself is he who'll say in grief
His passing time as my true friend: it was too brief.

Or maybe without the clunking rhyme:

The most painful thing: he who's pained to say:
He had been my friend once; now he's unworthy.
Still not there. Hmm.


  1. The title word is a gerundive, surely - 'pitiable' or 'to-be-sorry-for'. So:

    No man is more pitiable than he who will mournfully say
    He was once a friend but is not now worthy to be one

    But a good translation would use words with the same verb stem for 'pitiable' and 'mournfully', which is very hard (impossible?) in English. No wonder WSL wrote this in Latin.

  2. Of course you're right: this is the Gerundive, not the Gerund! Your version is much better than my stumbly ones ...

  3. What about 'pitiable' followed by 'piteously'?

  4. Francis: that might work. Or 'lamentable' ...

    "That most lamentable thing: when a man laments
    He had been my friend, once; but now he's unworthy to be called that."