‘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.

Wednesday, 12 October 2022

From Birth to Now


I looked-up this 1850 map (for something Victorian-set I'm presently writing, in order to check the exact path of the Great Western Railway) and was struck by the compass of this small section of it.  So: in 1965 I was born, in Mayday Hospital, now called Croydon Hospital: in the bottom right hand portion of this image. I grew up in Peckham, and then Sydenham. I presently live, as it happens, exactly where the folds in this map make a cross, north-west of Sunninghill and south-east of Wokingham. For portions of my life I have left this zone: as an undergraduate in Aberdeen and a graduate student at Cambridge, and after that for some years living in Southampton. But here I am again, in the middle of these arbitary crosshairs. Kismet, perhaps.

In a post on my Medium blog I meditated (in, surprisingly enough, given the topic, a rather NSFW manner) on the continuity of the Thames to my life. Where we currently live is a few miles from that great father river, but that's not say I don't continue to feel its influence. So here we are.


  1. Gosh - I was born in... well, actually I was born at home, but my younger sister was born in Mayday (and 'home' was only a little way off the bottom of that map, in Purley) - and I spent some of my formative years being miserable in Croydon. (I grew up, or at least went through puberty, in rural south Wales - which took a bit of the shine off the Green Belt when we came back to it.) For God's sake don't tell me what school you went to, or it'll turn out you were one of the first-year ticks who made my sixth-form years even more wretched than they needed to be.

    1. I think we travelled different paths, you and I: my primary school was Eliot Bank, between Sydenham and Forest Hill. By the time secondary came around my parents had moved to East Kent, and I went to Simon Langton, a state school in Canterbury. From there I passed, via Aberdeen, Cambridge and Southampton, back into this area, where I've spent the last three and more decades, always south of the river (who would want to live *north* of old father Thames?)

      On the other hand: rural south Wales, boyo? My mother's family are entirely south Walesian, Gilfach Goch, generation upon generation of hill farmers and miners. My maternal grandfather was sent down the mines as a teen, though he had the wits and good sense to get a correspondence course qualification in theology that led, eventually, to him becoming a vicar. Not sure which bit of south wales you're talking about, mind. Look you. Boyo. We're probably cousins.

    2. No, we were just passing through - no roots in the area, which in any case was Carmarthenshire (where they speak the language) bordering Pembrokeshire (where they not only don't but swear blind they're English and always have been). Although, bizarrely enough, one of my grandfathers was also a Welsh miner - other end of the country, though, up by Wrexham.