‘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, 6 August 2017

Ciceronis Opera

Just back from a lovely two week family holiday on the Black Isle, hence the paucity of posts lately. The above (click to embiggen) is my personal souvenir of our time in Scotland: found in a strange, rather tatty secondhand bookshop in Dingwall. Vol 19 is missing so it wasn't as expensive as it might have been: but vellum-bound, 1749, bee-ootiful, and I couldn't resist.

I bought it because I don't know Cicero as well as I ought and because my Latin is very, very far from being good enough—I mean, in a general sense. I propose to address these two delinquencies over my sabbatical, in part by reading some volumes of this edition. I've read only a couple of Ciceronian bits and pieces in English, and the only thing he wrote where I've so much as glanced at the Latin is this brief piece of proto-SF.

The bookplate is that of the Fortescue family, a Barony in the 18th-Century, an Earldom nowadays.

So this set must have been purchased by either Hugh, 1st Baron Fortescue right at the end of his life (1696–1751) or by his son Matthew, 2nd Baron Fortescue (1719–1785).

I find it fascinating to think that, only a couple of years after the Jacobite rebellion turned Scotland completely upside down, and as the bloody aftermath was going on all around them, Glasgow printers were sedulously assembling this complete edition of Cicero. I know Glasgow was a predominantly Whig town during the '45, and maybe it escaped the more severe retaliations by the English. Even so!

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