‘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 May 2020
Indiana Jones and the Palace of Ice
[As explained in the preamble to this blog from last month, one of the things I'm doing this spring/summer is blogging ideas for books, either semi-serious ones that I just don't have time to write, or less viable ideas for which I could never justify the time anyway. This one is, clearly, the latter; a dare that proceded from my daughter's slip of the tongue. This, at any rate, gives you all you need, without me having to flesh out all the inbetween bits.]
from Chapter 1
Indiana Jones put back his head and laughed. ‘Eskimos, Marcus?’
Marcus Brody gave his head a little nervous shake. ‘Inuit, Indy. Eskimo is the outsider name. To be frank with you, it’s regarded by the Inuit themselves as something of a slur.’
‘I’m sure they’re a wonderful people,’ said Jones. ‘But archaeology? It’s all ice and snow. What is there to excavate?’
‘That’s what’s so fascinating,’ Brody replied, taking his friend by the elbow and guiding him to a display case at the side of the room. ‘We received a generous donation to set up an Inuit display here in the museum—clothes, snowshoes, tools, their designs haven’t changed in thousands of years. The dealer included this.’ Brody unlocked the case and withdrew from a wide flat pebble, bigger than a man’s hand. He passed it to Jones. The rock possessed an indigo-black shimmer, and hatched lines and curved had been graven into it, and afterward filled with gold.
‘What’s this design?’ Indy asked. ‘And these symbols. Is this writing?’
‘It wasn’t easy to get it translated,’ Brody said. ‘I had to go to an obscure German specialist. I copied the inscription—though not the design—into a letter. It says,’ he added, lowering his voice, although they were the only two people in the room, ‘“In the Palace of Ice is Interred the Treasure of Life”.’
‘Palace of Ice? Is that what this design is supposed to represent?’
‘I didn’t send Hermann the design,’ said Brody. ‘Just the words. But, yes, that would be my guess. And given the Inuit skill when it comes to crafting ice, is it so hard to believe they might— at some point in their past—have built ice structures on a much larger scale?’
‘Have any such ever been discovered?’
‘No,’ Brody conceded. ‘No. But the area is so little known, Indy—so poorly explored.’
‘I don’t know, Marcus,’ Jones said. ‘This isn’t my usual shooting gallery. I’m more a sand-and-sunstroke kind of archaeologist.’
‘Come now. It's not like you to turn down an adventure. There’s not one single,’ said Brody, in an insinuating voice, ‘snake in the entire arctic circle, you know. And anyway, I’m afraid the question of whether you go or not has already been decuded. My German contact was not as discrete with the information I shared with him as I might have hoped. The M/S Kronprinsessen sails from Bergen in three days. I managed to squeeze you aboard, by threatening to expose Hermann to ridicule in the academic community, for breaching my confidence, you know.’
‘Well we wouldn't want that, now, would we,’ said Indy. ‘And what is this “treasure of life” anyway? What am I exactly looking for?’
‘I’ve no idea,’ said Brody, cheerfully. ‘That’s the fun of it!’
from Chapter 4
The Kronprinsessen rolled sluggishly, and Markwart almost lost his grip on Indy's throat. But with his assistant, the silent Meyer, held Indy’s arms back and the Nazi’s fingers remained tightly in place. Spray flew through the blackness, spattering icily on Indy’s face, and the wind was howling like a wolf. The boat plugged on through the night, rocking ponderously forward and back, swinging from side to side. The moon appeared briefly, like an eye peering through the viewing latch of a cell door, and then was again obscured by the pitchy clouds.
‘Does Hermann know about your little plot?’ Indy yelled. The effort cost him—Markwart’s fingers were pressed hard around his gullet—but his assailant only laughed.
‘Hermann is a fool,’ he returned, shouting over the rage of the night-time wind. ‘He thinks he is serving the Fatherland by exploring a polar route by which German armies might outflank America’s defenses, and press home a surprise attack. But the reality of this expedition is quite other! Quite other!’
‘We’re not at war with Germany,’ Indy yelled. If he couldn’t talk Markwart round, then he would try and rile him up, force him to lose his cool. Not that it would do him any good so long as Meyer, behind, kept his locked-tight grasp of Indy’s arms. One thing at a time, though.
‘Only a matter of time, Dr Jones,’ bellowed Markwart. ‘We who study the past are better at looking to the future, don’t you think? It is one of the benefits of our line of work. And when I look into the future, I see that war is,’ and he drew the next word out with unpleasant relish: ‘in-ev-it-able.’
‘You can’t even be sure there is a palace of ice,’ Indy said, shifting his weight and trying to squeeze some freedom out of his pinned limbs.
‘That is where you—and Hermann—are wrong,’ Markwart crowed. ‘I have information unknown to the both of you. And when I retrieve the treasure from this glacial palace, and return with it to Berlin, not only will I curry favour—that is the expression, is it not?—with the Fuehrer, I will be giving my Fatherland a weapon of such power as to bring this distracting war to an end within weeks.’
‘Not,’ Indy growled, placing his left foot against the bulwark as the ship rolled back again, and reading himself for the counter-roll, ‘if I can help it.’
The surge pushed back and the ship lurched again, angling its deck sharply. Indy kicked back at Meyer’s knee and, as the big man’s grip momently loosened, enabling him to wrench his right arm free. He formed a fist and was about to slam it into Markwart’s grinning, saltwater-wet face, gleaming in the electric lamp’s light, when a sudden surge jolted the ship in an unexpected direction. Indy’s punch missed its target and Markwart, snarling, screamed: ‘throw him over the side!’
Indy tried to resist, but Meyer was simply too strong: a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier. The boat quavered in the night-sea and then, as it started to roll back again, Meyer pulled Indy off the deck and pitched him, by main force, over the side and into the icy ink-black sea.
The wind flapped his coat about him as he fell, and his hat leapt from his head as if possessed. It was an instinctive action to reach out with is right hand and catch it before it flew off into the immensity of darkness. He braced himself: the water was, he knew, going to be impossibly, life-sappingly cold. But even in this extremity he was preparing himself: people died in minutes in arctic waters, he knew, so he would have to be quick. Strike out in the direction if the ship—but what was that? And then—
An impact so hard it jolted all the breath out of his chest. For a moment he simply lay, gasping, as the wind snapped and cooed about him. Then, slapping his arms down at his side he realised the truth: he had fallen not into water, but onto ice.
Steaming through the night, the Kronprinsessen had entered the world of the floes.
from Chapter 9
Grateful, for the hundredth time, for the furs he was wearing, Indy ran forward, through a slant wind of such chill and ferocity that all feeling left his face. He ran behind a prominence—a place where shifting ice had bulged up in jagged jumbled polygons, six feet tall—and waited. Looking behind, he gestured to Polly. With an easy bent-double run she covered the ground and joined him.
Indy peered round the blocked-up ice: there was the Kronprinsessen, frozen solid in the pack. ‘I can’t see any movement,’ he said. ‘I’m going to go over there.’
‘Just,’ said Polly, not so much gripping his shoulder as slapping it with her fat mitten, ‘just be careful, alright?’
‘Hey!’ Indy returned, with a smile so wry you could serve it in a diner with baloney. ‘I’m always careful.’
Actually shooting his rifle would mean taking off his gloves, and that was not an idea that appealed much to Indy: not here, out on the frost-biting wastes. So he slung the rifle over his shoulder, took a breath and made his move. Weighted with clothes and kit as he was, it took him longer than it might have done to cover the ground, but soon enough he slid into place, his shoulder hitting the metal of the hull with a clang. Round the far side of the immobilised ship Indy saw where the gangplank had been lowered. A body lay, face down on the ice, near the bottom of this.
Not without apprehension, Indy went up the gangplank and stood on the deck.
Everything was still. Indy pulled his right hand from its fur, brought the rifle round and slipped his trigger finger inside the icy guard. He entered the bridge and found a dead body, still slouched in its seat—its throat cut, and blood a ragged red-black hem of icicles underneath.
Cautiously going down the steps into the innards of the craft, rifle first, Indy moved along the corridor. He could hear something; heavy breathing. He stepped through a door: there was Markwart, on a bunk. It was obvious he did not have long: the clash with the Inuit had not left him unscathed—a spear, or most of one, protruded from his chest. Breathing was manifestly hard for the Nazi, but he smiled a ghastly smile at Indy,and even seemed to chuckle.
‘Dr Jones,’ he rasped. ‘What an unexpected pleasure.’
‘Looks like you don’t have long Markwart,’ growled Indy.
‘No, alas,’ Markwart conceded. ‘Although—longer than you, perhaps.’
A fraction too late Indy looked right. There was the huge bulk of Meyer. He had suffered badly in the fight with the Inuit: his left hand was missing entirely and there were scars and gashes all over him. But the ferocity of his gaze was undimmed, and before Indy could spin round and get off a shot the brute seized hold of the end of the rifle and yanked it, by main force, from Indy’s grasp.
It was all over in a second. Indy froze. Markwark, white as the ice outside that locked the Kronprinsessen in place, and breathing with an audible death’s rattle, had nonetheless pulled out a pistol and was aiming it at the archaeologist.
‘You are a fool, Dr Jones,’ Markwark rasped. ‘You always have been. My colleague, Herr Doktor Neumann, has already left for the Palace. He will be there before sunset. A plane from Berlin is on its way to join him. Soon the prize will be ours.’
‘It’s not too late to stop him,’ urged Indy. ‘Recall him—I’ll get you medical attention if you do it.’
‘My dear Doctor Jones,’ said Markwark, his smile growing more ghastly by the minute. ‘Why would I wish for inferior medical attention from some American doctor? When Neumann has the treasure, death itself will be conquered. Our soldiers will become literally invincible—shoot them down and they will simply return to life. And I? I have the means of curing myself of my not inconsiderable suffering here, in my own hands,’ Without pause, or any other kind of preparation, Markwark turned the pistol on himself—aimed it at his own chest and pulled the trigger.
The sound, in that enclosed space with its metal walls, was astonishing. The muzzle-flash and sudden hot stink of discharged gunpowder made Indy step back. Meyer, dropping Indy’s rifle and uttering an animal howl of horror and misery, threw himself on his former master. Indy, picked up his gun. He left the lunk there, sobbing over the corpse, and made his way back up on deck.
from Chapter 19
Once its structure must have been as clear as blue glass although now, with the passage of time, cracks and delapidations scarred the surface, and its outline was broken and irregular. And yet it was still extraordinary to gaze upon. As the sunset grew in richness of colour, the walls of the ice palace glowed with an unearthly majesty. ‘It’s—’ Polly gasped, ‘it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!’
‘Very pretty,’ Indy growled. ‘But there another source of light there too … inside.’
‘It has to be. Electric lights. He's setting-up his gear. Come on. We haven't much time.’
They hurried across the open land towards the main entrance of the palace, the red sunlight drawing out their shadows into flapping ribbons over the flatness of the ice. There, parked by the gate, was the Nazi plane, parked and fixed with guy-ropes. They hadn’t set a guard, which meant either they were confident they weren’t going to be disturbed, or else meant they couldn’t spare the personnel. Under the carved ice-arches, inset with whalebone, and through a ice-built passage that gleamed dimly in blue and green.
‘I can hear them,’ whispered Polly. Indy nodded. German voices, somewhere up ahead.
He gestured her to follow him up an ice-staircase—crisply carved once perhaps, but now worn and cracked, and half covered with snow. They ducked to make their way along a narrow space, the voices—below them now—growing louder. Finally they emerged in a kind of ice-carved balcony, overlooking the cavernous central chamber of the palace.
‘Look!’ Indy whispered. ‘It’s exactly as Aglukakk said—a tomb. The question is: whose?’
‘Who—or what,’ Polly hissed back. ‘Look at the size of that body.’
She was right: the tomb was a vast sarcophagus of ice, its former perfect transparency long gone, but still see-through sufficiently to reveal the figure within—humanoid in everything except stature. ‘He’d be twelve foot tall if he stood up,’ Polly whispered.
Neumann was standing by the head of the ice-sarcophagus. The hood of his padded coat was pulled back and the animation and enthusiasm on his face was unmissable. He was talking excitedly to a second man, whilst two more individuals—wearing the white camouflage coats of Nordic soldiers—stood guard, rifles at the ready. Behind Neumann was a stack of equipment: an electrical generator, several boxes weedy with wiring and blinking with light, and a hospital stretcher, complete with restraining straps. The stretcher was of an unusual bigness, but even so: Indy wasn’t sure they were going to be able to fit the body onto.
‘What do they want with the frozen mummy of a body that’s been centuries dead?’ Polly hissed
Indy shook his head, straining to eavesdrop on the conversation down below. He heard the name and couldn’t believe it; only when Neumann, laughing, said it a second time did reality sink in.
‘It’s not dead,’ he hissed. ‘They’re not going to fly it back as an ice-mummy—they’re going to reanimate it. Frankenstein’s creature, Polly. Frankenstein’s creature!’
‘It can’t be!’
‘Think back to what Aglukakk told us. A more-than-human, the giant of life, that slid down the Northern Lights and so entered our world. A monster-god with the power to tramp down death itself.’
‘But it’s not even myth,’ Polly hissed. ‘It’s just fiction.’
‘Mary Shelley heard the stories—rumours from the first European Arctic explorers. That’s why she took her story up here: Frankenstein pursuing his creation unto the icy wastes. But it wasn’t his creation; it was something else, something from somewhere else. To the Inuit, almost a god—hence this mausoleum. But if even a fraction of the story is true, then this is a being not only of immense destructive power, but containing within its cells the means to reverse death.’
‘We can’t let the Nazis have him,’ Polly said. ‘We can’t.’
‘Not on my watch,’ growled Indy. He shifted his weight, and at that exact moment a hefty chunk of their ice-balcony broke free and fell, clattering loudly to the floor below. ‘Halt!’ yelled Neumann, pointing up at Indy and Polly’s vantage point. ‘Shoot them! Shoot them now!’