‘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.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Englishing Homer sonically rather than semantically

Not an exact translation, of course; that would be too strained and gibberishical. But to render (say) the first line of the Odyssey
Ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ
Andrew, my enemy. Mousy Polly, true upon horse: my love, Polly.
rather than 'Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far etc'. I wonder how far this could be sustained? I suppose it would be liable to get rather tedious, rather quickly.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I have a hard time making Ἀχιλλευς sound like anything other than "I'll kill yous" with my students, and it at least gets at the μῆνιν.