‘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.
Tuesday, 25 August 2020
Out today (available as e-text only, Amazon US, Amazon UK). The story's not bad but François's illustrations are something else again.
Friday, 14 August 2020
And I should raise in the east
A glass of water
If I were called in to construct a religion
I would start with opposition.
Pick an established faith, like Larkin's Water,
and attack it as insufficiently aquatic.
I would bewail the drowned
and blame Larkin;
and gather an army and make war
upon the Larkinians,
kill them, seize their Larkwives
and their Larkine.
I would establish the Holy Romarine Empire,
crown my good with brotherhood
from land to shingly land.
Scorch my enemies and parch my friends.
After that comes expansion, missionaries,
elaborate ritual, green-and-purple robes,
High Holy Days to mark the fullest tides.
Then a long period of decline
as theologians bicker over
increasingly crumbling minutiae
and ordinary people live by
a calcified version of the once flowing spirit
(stalactites, coral, ice)
when I will walk the beach, with all the stiffness of age—
as the breakers come and keep coming
bowing before the land like heretics—
and contemplate Mystery, salt and unsustaining.