‘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.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Chambers's Eleven Planets

I had occasion today to consult Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844), Robert Chambers's very famous and influential account of cosmic and natural history which includes, among many things, a kind of proto-evolutionary theory. Google Books has the American third edition, from 1845, which seemed to me close enough. This is how the book opens:

Wait: eleven planets? This is long before Pluto, so .... which eleven did Chambers have in mind?


  1. The eleven planets were the classical six (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn), plus Uranus (discovered 1781), Ceres (discovered 1801), Pallas (1802), Juno (1804), and Vesta (1807).

  2. here's a thing