‘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.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Why should one write poems when one is old?

A rather lovely late sonnet by C H Sisson, from (to quote the Anecdotal Evidence blog, where I came across it) 'Nine Sonnets, a pamphlet not much thicker than a bookmark, printed by The Greville Press of Emscote Lawn, Warwick, in 1991'.
Why should one write poems when one is old?
Not, to be sure, in hope of reputation
Which has either come, or else will escape one.
In hope of love perhaps? But what is told
Now, will not strengthen anybody’s hold
On me or mine on them: the time of truth has come,
And yet I lie as I have always done
And leave myself and others unappalled.
Poets are liars, yet no more than others,
Those who are not their sisters are their brothers,
All of the same lying family,
Children of Adam, fond of all evasions,
Blaming, beguiling on the least occasions
And to the last, and so it is with me.
Something of my own mood, and feelings about writing, at the moment.

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