‘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.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Bowles 16: July 18th, 1787

O Time! who know'st a lenient hand to lay
Softest on sorrow's wounds, and slowly thence,
(Lulling to sad repose the weary sense)
The faint pang stealest unperceiv'd away;
On Thee I rest my only hope at last,
And think, when thou hast dried the bitter tear
That flows in vain o'er all my soul held dear,
I may look back on many a sorrow past,
And meet life's peaceful evening with a smile—
As some lone bird, at day's departing hour,
Sings in the sunbeam of the transient shower,
Forgetful, tho' its wings are wet the while:—
Yet ah! how much must that poor heart endure,
Which hopes from thee, and thee alone, a cure!
'Time heals all wounds' (hardly the most original topic for a poem); with what looks like a Shakespearean twist ending in the final couplet. Except that: the final couplet does not so much provide a 'turn' on the sentiments expressed in the main body of the poem as a complete departure from it. It's as if the speaker of the last two lines hasn't been listening to the rest of the text: 'time heals all wounds; but it'll be a cold day in hell before I get any sexual reciprocity from you, you tease!' amounts to a non-sequitur.

Still, the simile of the songbird at evening is quite nice:
As some lone bird, at day's departing hour,
Sings in the sunbeam of the transient shower,
Forgetful, tho' its wings are wet the while:
I suppose the meaning is: it has been raining, and will rain again, but the downpour has stopped briefly and the sun has come out, which fills the (wet) bird with happiness. Which is fair enough, although the phrase 'the sunbeam of the transient shower' creates a nice frisson, as if it is raining and sunny at the same time. That sometimes happens! It is rainbow weather!

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