‘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, 3 October 2015

Dryden's Musical Version of Paradise Lost (1674)

Royalist Dryden, though a political antagonist of Republican Milton, admired Paradise Lost immensely, and wrote the libretto for a planned musical version of the epic in 1674: The State of Innocence, and Fall of Man (it wasn't published until 1677). Apparently the music was never composed to accompany this, nor were the King's Company players or the staff of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane especially eager to put the thing on. Here is the opening stage direction. A touch over-ambitious and expensive, perhaps, in terms of stagecraft and special effects?

All that's missing here is a giant hologram of Sir Laurence Olivier's head.

If Hell was a set-dresser's nightmare (sample stage direction: 'A Palace rises, where sit, as in Council, Lucifer, Asmoday, Molock, Belial , Beelzebub and Sathan'), Eden seems to have been a lot more modestly conceived. A bit of moss. A small rock.

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