‘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, 29 April 2016

Stuffed Owls

Today's vote for the most uneuphonious opening line in any poem published during the Romantic period goes to: Eyles Irwin's Nilus, an Elegy: Occasioned by the Victory of Admiral Nelson over the French Fleet (1798), which commences thuswise:

It's partly the unwanted homophone on 'court': I caught the Memphic Muse rather suggests some horrible water-borne tropical disease, perhaps involving pestiferous-torrent blood. There's also this description of Nelson's naval strategy as something that entailed 'bursting', like a water-balloon or perhaps a pimple, over the enemy:

And this David Attenboroughish moment of local colour:


Quite a big if, in that last line, surely. Though Pestiferous Torrents are no doubt disagreeable things to have in one's veins.

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