‘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.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Under A Moon

I've been reading a bunch of Fantasy novels lately, for prize-judging purposes. To take a break from that I read something else, and immediately came across a passage that had the feel of a piece of description from a Fantasy tome, and a rather nice one, too:
Long after midnight they halted, slept for three hours and went on again under a moon. The road was among trees along another watercourse with sharp-pointed hills on either side, black and white in the moonlight: the air was stifling. Day came as they entered a broader part of the valley with dust spinning round here and there in the dawn wind. On the right lay another hamlet of brown and white houses looking like a dolls' village in the shadow of a huge precipice thousands of feet high.
It's a book full of little passages like this, in amongst a great deal of rather deliberately simplified history, and anecdotes from life. Not just anyone's life, though. This one:

Graves's account of his friend Lawrence's adventures was written with a more popular readership in mind than Lawrence's own rather fancifully styled Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Conceived and executed with Lawrence's collaboration, and based partly on conversations he had with Graves, it was a big hit: my edition is the seventh edition within only a few years. And it includes this splendid map.

Here's the passage:

I love the specificity of 'a' moon, there. 'The Arab Area', though, sounds like a nightclub or something.

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