‘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.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Well Met by Moonlight

Rather brilliantly, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art has released to the world images of 375,000 their artworks to use, share, and remix, without restriction. At the top of this post is one of them: a watercolor/gouache by British-born painter Henry Farrer called 'Winter Scene in Moonlight' (1869). I've just spent the last hour browsing the 19th-century collections, and I'm about to dive back in for more. It's addictive. Here's a 1848 Dante Rossetti pen-and-ink sketch of the end of Goethe's Faust:

Here's a characteristically rich, rather over-solid Burne-Jones, 'The Love Song' (1868-77):

Here's another watercolour, this one by Charles Reginald Aston, called 'Tree Branches' (1908):

And here's an 1880s albumen silver print of 'Athena Nike', from the Athenian Acropolis, snapped by William James Stillman:

I hadn't seen any of these images before, and there are hundreds of thousands of more just a click away. Amazing, really.


  1. Thanks for the heads up. Don't know if you've come across ArtUK.org, which has copies of pretty much every item of art in a UK museum or other public collection - again, very browsable.

    1. Well, it's not as I have any actual *work* to do today ... (thanks!)