‘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, 18 June 2015

India, America

Closer than you might think:

That's from the title page of Nova typis transacta navigatio novi orbis Indiæ occidentalis ('the lately transacted voyage to the new world of the west indes', 1627), written very much not at first hand by a Benedictine abbot called Caspar Plautius (Kaspar Plautz) of Seitenstetten Abbey in Austria.

It is, according to the authorities, 'fanciful work with fictional parts and fantastic illustrations'. Here, for example, is the book's account of Saint Brendan, crossing the Atlantic as a missionary and stopping midway to celebrate mass on what he takes to be an island. The fool!

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