‘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

Water Savage Landor, Ad Suthei (1858)

The third, and last (for a while) of these: since I need to crack on with some real work. So, another poem from Dry Sticks, Fagoted, these hendecesyllabics are addressed to Landor's close friend, Robert Southey. They are translated into rather halting eleven-syllable lines (harder to get the proper hendecesyllabic effect in English than you might think, it turns out). As with the previous post, it's tricky to know how to replicate in English the effect of repeating the same word in a different inflection, in the last line.

To Southey

Heu patrum optime, quanta perdidisti
Vitae commoda, filio vocato
Illuc unde homini nefas redire!
At scis qui vocatesse redditurum
Detersis lacrimis in omne seclum.
Si tanta abstulit auferetque paucis,
Paucis, quod superbat tibi, reliquit ...
Sublime ingenium, probos amicos,
Et domum unanimam haud dolore solo.
Fles natum pater, atque fles acerbé:
Mox tecum reputes, pius tenerque
Quanto fleret acerbius parentem
Et solatia quae forent ademti!
Non ut parcius hunc minusve amanter
Tandem respicias rogo aut probarem,
Sed suave alloquium venustaque ora,
Quae natura dabat, sinas perisse
Et quodcumque dare assolet juventae,
Impertita licet minore cura.
Tu, quodcunque erat unico his in annis,
Doctrinae bona sanctitudinemque
Morum, qua melius probentur esse
Jam ducas utinam, petoque, Suthei!
Famae pars ea magna sunt paternae,
Perennique perenniora fama.

Alas, strength of our Fathers: how much is lost,
Of their upright way of living for that man
on whom men’s evil rebounds—the poet-son!
But be aware who speaks of reclamation,
who has wiped away each generation’s tears.
Since he took away much from those with little
only little remains to give—surpassing you…
of your sublime character, upright friendship,
your well-ordered, never sad or lonely home.
You grieve, son to father, and grieve bitterly:
pressing innocence, kindness and tenderness,
yet how much harsher for the weeping parent
who would have been deprived of suchlike comfort!
Not through any lessening or lack of love
that could at last look, or ever ask to test,
but from these eloquent and graceful mouths
that nature gave, that you never relinquished
and whatever the saying is to give youth,
having fitly communicated small cares.
you alone gave us, through such uncertain years,
the virtue and the sanctity of well-learnt
manners, making us more upright and honest:
lead us now in that, I beseech you, Southey!
May you share the great fame of your parents’—
Perennial fame that lasts forever.

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