‘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, 7 January 2015

Guiterman's Sublime Masefied Parody

Still painfully famous, Masefield's 'Sea Fever' ('I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,/And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by...' and so on). But why read the original when you can read Arthur Guiterman's franky superior parody?

When Mrs. John Masefield and her husband, the author of "Sea Fever," arrived on a liner, she said to a reporter "It was too uppy-downy, and Mr. Masefield was ill." - (News item)

I must go down to the seas again, where the billows romp and reel,
So all I ask is a large ship which rides on an even keel,
And a mild breeze and a broad deck with a slight list to leeward,
And a clean chair in a snug nook and nice, kind steward.

I must go down to the seas again, the sport of wind and tide,
As the gray wave and the green wave play leapfrog over the side;
And all I want is a glassy calm with a bone-dry scupper,
A good book and a warm rug and a light, plain supper.

I must go down to the seas again, though there I'm a total loss,
And I can't say which is worst: the pitch, the plunge, the roll, the toss;
But all I ask is a safe retreat in a bar well tended,
And a soft berth and a smooth course till the long trip's ended.

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