‘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, 22 June 2015

Edmund Dickinson "Physica Vetus & Vera" (The Old Physics True, 1702)

My loitering in the fields of 17th- and 18th-century neo-Latinity (for something academic I'm working on) has brought me at last to Edmund Dickinson Physica Vetus & Vera, 'The Old Physics True' (1702), a work which seeks to combine the Old Testament, alchemy and various orts and scraps from the Greek and Roman classics. Dickinson himself seems like a colourful fellow, and this book is supposed to sum up his vision of the cosmos. It comes with two illustrations, near the beginning. The first represents the earth as packed tight in celestial coffee beans, filling the space between us and the starry 'fiery, bright' aether/empyraeum:

Groovy. The Latin at the bottom is Ovid's Metamorphosis 1:22-23, and means 'he severed the earth from the sky and he parted the sea from the land;/ he separated translucent space from the grosser sky'. The second doesn't give us a great deal by way of detail:

The Greek there is a bit of the first chapter of Genesis ('Et Tenebrae erant super faciem abyssi', and darkness was upon the face of the deep) to which an adaptation of Metamorphosis 1:7 is tacked on, 'quam graeci dixere chaos', 'that the Greeks call Chaos'.

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