‘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.

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Emblems 2: Embl Harder

What does the month of August mean to you? If you replied: 'giant hairy crab beasts devouring huge butterflies', then you're in luck:

'How would you sum up Monsieur de Guise?' 'Well, he hates naked women.' 'Hates them enough to want them impaled through the privates by a gigantic sword?' 'Easily that much, yes.'

'Let's say I'm a lover, yeah?'
'Say I have a special little lady in mind, yeah?'
'What emblem do you think would best express the tenderness of my affections?'
'How about: a woman with her arms chopped off, tied to a stake, a humungous candle burning down on her head, and a massive bug coming in to land on her face?'
'Steady on: I'm not trying to get her to marry me.'

What is 'Nobility'? Well, nobility is very much a matter of walking around carrying at all times a rectangular frame upon which birds are perching.

'I went out, leaving all my gold coins in pots on the table as usual. But then I'm sorry to say my pet monkey got loose and threw all my money out of the window. I know it's a long shot, but: do you have an off-the-peg emblem I could use to explain my predicament to my friends?'

From Gabriello Simeoni's Les devises ou emblemes heroiques et morales (1559)

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