‘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.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Vergilius Vaticanus



The Vatican digitization project (which is, I don't need to tell you, one of the wonders of the age) continues with, as the Washington Post reported today, the digitization of one of the oldest MSS of The Aeneid in the world, the famous Vergilius Vaticanus.
The Vatican Apostolic Library announced Friday that it has digitized a 1600 year-old manuscript that contains “fragments” of the epic, which tells the tale of the ancient hero Aeneas as he ventures from Troy to Italy. The manuscript also includes portions of Virgil’s second major poem, “Georgics,” which is about agriculture and mankind’s struggle with nature.

Virgil originally wrote “Georgics” and “The Aeneid” between 29 and 19 B.C. The manuscript, which once likely contained the entirety of Virgil’s canonical work, was assembled several centuries later. It was studied by famed Italian painter Raphael during the Renaissance period, and finally donated to the Vatican Apostolic Library in 1602.

The digitization of the manuscript is part of a years-long effort to create electronic versions of the church’s oldest and most sacred texts. In all, that includes some 80,000 manuscripts comprised of 40 million pages being converted into 45 quadrillion bytes, according to Digita Vaticana, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the library that raises money for the project.
It's here and it's amazing: I've just spent several hours poring over it. The interface is nicely designed, and whilst the bulk of the e-text is like this:


... and occasionally this ...


.... there are a great many gorgeous illustrations too. Here is what amounts to the frontispiece (just preceding the first page of the Aeneid itself, a detail of which is at the head of this post).


That's Iris, coming down to Turnus (in Aeneid 9) in order to tell him to attack the Trojans: 'quid dubitas? nunc tempus equos, nunc poscere currus' she tells the warrior: 'rumpe moras omnis et turbata arripe castra'; 'how can you doubt it? No delays now, now is the time to call horse and chariot and seize hold of the panicked Trojan camp'. I like the way she appears to be floating down on her own rainbow, like a sort of parachute. This Iris/Turnus image was also used as cover-art for the edition of the poem I had as a student, so for me it has added nostalgia value. Scroll a little further on, and ...


That's the storm in Book 1 (sent by angry Juno, who bribed Aeolus with one of her nymphs to fill the air with tempest). You can see Aeneas imploring the gods in the nearer of the two ships. But what sea serpents! And most excellent personifications of the winds!


That's Book 4. Tucked neatly into the bottom-right corner are Dido and Aeneas, having a rather stiffly awkward cuddle inside the cave whilst the storm rages outside, and their attendants make the best of it. I like the guy using his shield as an umbrella: that's smart thinking, that is. And a few pages earlier, this double-spread:


On the left, there, is Dido and her sister Anna at the feast (well: one single fish, and a couple of dwarfs serving wine: I suppose that counts as a feast) listening to Aeneas, in the centre, telling them the story of his adventures. And on the right is part of that tale, viz. the fall of Troy. You can see the wooden horse, and the deceitful Sinon. I don't believe his nudity is specified in the poem as such, but I suppose it adds a little spice

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