‘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 16 May 2015

The Aeneid as Astronomical Allegory

Pendant to my post yesterday about Drummond's Oedipus Judaicus. The book, though its circulation was limited, nonetheless caused a small scandal. Ceric and scholar George D'Oyly published a rebuttal: Remarks on Sir W. Drummond's Oedipus Judaicus (1813) making all the points you might expect an orthodox Anglican of his generation to make. One of his ways of ridiculing Drummond's 'astrologicising' of the Bible was to assert that you could do the same thing with any text. Here he is, for instance, on the Aeneid:

I appreciate that D'Oyly is mocking here, but I'll confess I'm rather struck by that idea. I wonder if anyone has done it for real? I mean, produced a reading of The Aeneid in which the argument is that Vergil, a secret priest of Mithras (or somesuch), encoded a hidden astronomical allegory into his epic?

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