‘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.

Monday 3 September 2018

Pinocchio (Disney, 1940)

I love this image from Disney's masterpiece Pinocchio. I love the way it shows the donkey wickedness of the boys on ‘Pleasure Island’ (they have defaced the Mona Lisa with graffiti!) whilst, at the same time, using the content of that graffito—a baby in the madonna's arms—to capture what it is these boys truly miss, and really want: maternal comfort. There's something quite profound in this throwaway moment, and Pinocchio is full of this kind of thing.


  1. Of course it is, Adam. Those early Disney features are among the most closely worked films ever. & Uncle Walt was micromanaging the whole thing.

  2. Chicken fat is the American "technical" name for cramming as many throw-away gags and references in a picture as is humanly possible. Will Elder coined the term, I think, but it's been going on since medieval scriptoria, perhaps even Lascaux?