‘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, 5 July 2016

Dante’s Inferno Canto 10. A New Translation



[Canto 10. Descending into the sixth circle of Hell, the poet encounters heretics, beginning with Epicureans who believed that 'the soul dies with the body', and who are punished after death by being trapped inside flaming tombs. Dante holds discourse with a famous Epicurean Florentine in one of the tombs: Farinata degli Uberti, a Ghibelline who had been posthumously condemned for heresy in 1283.




And so we passed along a narrow path
Between the torments and the city wall,
My Master first, and me close at his back.

"Master, O power, that makes me turn through all
These circles of unpiety," I said,
"Please tell me, if you care to, where we are:

Who are the people lying in these graves?
They're on display: the covers of their tombs
Are lifted up, and no one’s standing guard."

And he replied: "These lids will all slam down
When they return out of Jehoshaphat
And bring the bodies they have left above.

Their final place is in these burning graves,
Bad Epicurus and his followers,
Damned to fire for saying soul dies with body."

Abruptly then a clamour echoed out
From one of the near sepulchres; and I
Stood closer to my Leader, sudden-scared.

He told me: "Turn round: What are you doing?
Look: it's Farinata, sitting tall,
His body visible from the waist on up."

I had already locked my eyes with his,
Half upright, breast and chest displayed
Hard shaking with the tremors of the damned.

My Leader pushed me on with his brave hands
Between sarcophagi, towards the grave,
He told me, "Talk to him and don't hold back."

I stumbled to the edge of his grim tomb
As he glared at me, filled with hot disdain
And said: "AAAAAAARRRRGGGGGHHH!!!"

I offered no equivocation then,
But opened up my heart in answering;
Whereat he wrinkled up his brow and said:

"Aaaaaaaarrrrrrrggggggggggggh! Agh! Agh!
Oh God THE PAIN OH MERCY MAKE IT STOP!!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

"It's hard to know how best to answer you,"
I said, "or what the right expression is;
Your eloquence has not acquired true art."

He stared at me, sharp madness in his eyes
As if in search of someone else but me.
But seeing only me, he wept in pain

And said: "ARGH! ARGH! ARGH! ARGH! ARGH! ARGH! ARGH! ARGH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRrRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!"
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

I told him: "Don't blame me for your dolour;
You see that guy back there? That's Vergil. He
Knows more than ever I will do. It's true."

Up starting suddenly, he cried out: "AAAAAAHHH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!"
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

"IT HURTS," he screamed, sucked in a painful breath
"AARRGH! AARRGH!" he yelled, "NO-NO-NO-NO! AH! AH!,
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!

I said to him: "The slaughter and great carnage
Which have with crimson stained Arabia, cause
Such orisons in our temple to be made."

He gasped a dry gasp, struggling with words,
"AAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGH!" he said, "PLEASE! STOP!
PLEASE STOP THE AGONY I CAN'T ENDUUUUURE!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!

"There is some limitation to your speech,"
I told him, "and that makes it hard to follow,
Which has entangled my conceptions here.

It seems that you have grasped, if I hear right,
The fundamental principle of Hell,
And so give voice to man's most truthful sounds."

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!"


"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!"


"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

And now my Master was recalling me,
Wherefore more eagerly I prayed the spirit
That he would tell me what his message was.

He said: "I am in agony! Ach! Ach!;
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

And then he hid himself, collapsing down;
And I turned back to my most honoured guide
Reflecting much on what I had heard there.

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