‘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.

Friday, 26 January 2018


Missing with force the old Horatian point is
scorning parturient montes nascetur
ridiculus mus, is honouring instead
the emergent mouse, is speaking truths
that every child knows in their small-bore bones
that big is not at all the same as major.

And mouse is small, and mountain very big.
But mouse has something marvelous that all
the magnitude of brute tectonic thrust
can never animate: we call it life
and marvel twitches in its snout, and
dances dazzling footwork in its paws.

Though avalanche descends implacably
by grace of gravity and mere momentum
a million tons of snow, a million times,
is less than just one red pip heartbeat pulse;
and mouse is watching us with inkbead eyes
assessing us, as rockpiles never do.