"Poetry = The Best Words In The Best Order"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: A brilliant, eloquent, tireless talker was Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who rarely failed to astonish or befuddle his auditors with the reach of his mind and the rare corners of his learning. To his nephew, Henry Nelson Coleridge, it seemed criminal that "such a strain of music" should die with Coleridge, and he formed the habit of writing down after returning home what he had heard. Published the year after Coleridge's death, the specimans of table talk cover over eleven years, ending a few days before Coleridge's death with a comment that "I wish life and strength had been spared to me to complete my Philosophy" (July 10, 1834). Imbedded in the midst of comments on Luther, Puritan objections to the surplice, Bolingbroke's style, and the fathers of the church, is the famous comment on prose and poetry that, by its simplicity, stands in sharp contrast to Coleridge's other, more elaborate and formal, definitions. It seems to have been part of an otherwise lost discussion of the Italian epic poets Ariosto (1474-1533) and Tasso (1544-1595):

Well! I am for Ariosto against Tasso; though I would rather praise Ariosto's poetry than his poem.
I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose = words in their best order;–poetry = the best words in the best order.