‘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, 6 April 2020

Sir Bors and the Holy Grail

Sir Bors achieved the Holy Grail and so took it home with him.
And it was naught but a handled beaker made of hammered tin;
And he set it high on his sideboard shelf to jostle with clutter and mould,
And there the beaker hoarded its magic until his life was old.
For that's when he took it down again and wondered at its design,
And said “I've owned it all these years and forgot that it never was mine.”
And he polished it up, and held it, and he took it, and threw it outside,
And soon as he'd done so he laughed in release and laid himself down and he died.


  1. A few more verses, and a wrily unironic refrain in italics, and you could pass that off as Kipling.

    1. Quite a few more verses, and a deal more imperialism. But that's high praise in my book.