Chapter 6: The Princess Ineffabelle

“There was something. . . .but I forget just what,” said the King, back in front of the Cabinet That Dreamed. “But why are you, Subtillion, hopping about on one leg like that and holding the other?”
“It’s – it’s nothing, Your Highness . . .a touch of rhombotism . . . must be a change in the weather,” stammered the craft Thaumaturge, and then continued to tempt the King to sample yet another dream. Zipperupus thought awhile, read through the Table of Contents and chose, “The Wedding Night of Princess Ineffabelle.” And he dreamt he was sitting by the fire and reading an ancient volume, quaint and curious, in which it told, with well-turned words and crimson ink on gilded parchment, of the Princess Ineffabelle, who reigned five centuries ago in the land od Dandelia, and it told of her Icicle Forest, and her Helical Tower, and the Aviary That Neighed and the Treasury with a Hundred Eyes, but especially of her beauty and abounding virtues. And Zipperupus longed for this vision of loveliness with a great longing, and a mighty desire was kindled within him and set his soul afire, tat his eyeballs blazed like beacons, and he rushed out and searched every corner of the dream for Ineffabelle, but she was nowhere to be found, indeed, only the very oldest robots had ever heard of that princess. Weary from his long peregrinations, Zipperupus came at last to the centre of the royal desert, where the

Excerpt from “The Tale of the Three Story Telling Machines,” from The Cyberiad bt Stanislaw Lem, translated bt Michael Kandel. Copyright © 1974 by The Seabury Press, Inc. Reprinted by permission of The Continuum Publishing Corporation.

Dunes were gold plated, and there espied a humble hut; when he approached it, he saw an individual of patriarchal appearance, in a robe as white as snow. The latter rose and spake thusly:
“Thou seekest Ineffabelle, poor wretch” And yet thou knowest full well she doth not live here these five hundred years, hence how vain and unavailing is thy passion? The only thing that I can do for thee is to let thee see her – not in the flesh, forsooth, but a fair informational facsimile, a model that is digital, not physical, stochastic, not plastic, ergodic and most assuredly erotic, and all in yon Black Box, which I constructed in my spare time out of odds and ends!”
“Ah, show her to me, show her to me now!” exclaimed Zipperupus, quivering. The patriarch gave a nod, examined the ancient volume for the princess’s coordinates, put her and the entire Middle Ages on punch cards, wrote up the program, threw the switch, lifted the lid of the Black Box and said.
The King leaned over, looked an saw, yes, the Middle Ages simulated to a T, all digital, binary , and nonlinear, and there was the land of Dandelia, The Icicle Forest, the palace with the Helical Tower, the Aviary That Neighed, and the Treasury with a Hundred Eyes as w ell, and there was Ineffabelle herself, taking a slow, stochastic stroll through he simulated garden, and her circuits glowed red and gold as she picked simulate daisies, and hummed a simulated song. Zipperupus, unable to restrain himself any longer, leaped upon the Black Box and in his madness tried to climb into that computerized world. The patriarch, however, quickly killed the current, hurled the King to the earth and said.
“Madman! Wouldst attempt the impossible?! For no being made of matter can ever enter a system that is naught but the flux and swirl of alphanumerical elements, discontinuous integer configurations, the abstract stuff of digits!”
“But I must, I must!!” bellowed Zipperupus, beside himself, and beat his head against the Black Box until the metal was dented. The old sage then said:
“If such is they inalterable desire, there is a way I can connect thee to the Princess Ineffabelle, but first thou must part with thy present form, for I shall take thy appurtenant coordinates and make a program of thee, atom by atom, and place thy simulation in that world medievally modeled, informational and representational, and there it will remain, enduring as long as electrons course through these wires and hop from cathode to anode. But thou, standing here before me now, thou will be annihilated.

So that thy only existence may be in the form of given fields and potentials, statistical, heuristical, and wholly digital!”
“That’s hard to believe,” said Zipperupus. “How will I know you’ve simulated me, and not someone else?”
“Very well, we’ll make a trial run,” said the sage. And he took all the King’s measurements, as for a suit of clothes, though with much greater precision, since every atom was carefully plotted and weighed, and then he fed the program into the Black Box and said:
The King peered inside and saw himself sitting by the fire and reading in an ancient book about the Princess Ineffabelle, then rushing out to find here, asking here and there, until in the heart of the gold-plated desert he came upon a humble hut and a snow-white patriarch, who greeted him with the words. “Thou seekest Ineffabelle, poor wretch!” And so on.
“Surely now thou art convinced,” aid the patriarch, switching it off. “This time I shall program thee in the Middle Ages, at the side of the sweet Ineffabelle, that thou mayest dream with her an unending dream, simulated, nonlinear, binary. . . “
“Yes, yes, I understand,” said the King. “But still, it’s only my likeness, not myself, since I am right here, and not in any Box!”
“But thou wilt not be here long,” replied the sage with a kindly smile, “for I shall attend to that. . . .”
And he pulled a hammer from under the bed, a heavy hammer, but serviceable.
“When thou art locked in the arms of thy beloved,” the patriarch told him, “I shall see to it that there be not two of thee, one here and one there, in the Box – employing a method that is old and primitive, yet never fails, so if thou wilt just bend over a little. . . .”
“First let me take another look at your Ineffabelle,” said the King. “Just to make sure. . . “
The sage lifted the lid of the Black Box and showed him Ineffabelle. The King looked and looked, and finally said:
“The description in the ancient volume is greatly exaggerated. She’s not bad, of course, but nowhere near as beautiful as it says in the chronicles. Well, so long, old sage. . . .”
And he turned to leave.
“Where art thou going madman?!” cried the patriarch, clutching his hammer, for the King was almost out the door.
“Anywhere but in the Box,” said Zipperupus and hurried out, but at that very moment the dream burst like a bubble beneath his feet, and he found himself in the vestibule facing the bitterly disappointed Subtillion.

disappointed because the King had come so close to being locked up in the Black Box, and the Lord High Thaumaturge could have kept him there forever. . . .



This is the first of three selections in our book by the Polish writer and philosopher Stanislaw Lem . We have used the published translations by Michael Kandel, and before commenting on Lem’s ideas, we must pay tribute to Kandel for his ingenious conversions of sparkling Polish wordplay into sparkling English wordplay. All through The Cyberiad (from which this story was taken), this high level of translation is maintained. In reading translations like this one, we are reminded how woefully far the current programs for machine translation are from snatching jobs away from people.
Lem has had a lifelong interest in the questions we raise in this book. His intuitive and literary approach perhaps does a better job of convincing readers of his views than any hard-nosed scientific article or arcanely reasoned philosophical paper might do.
As for his story, we think it speaks for itself. We would just like to know one thing: what is the difference between a simulated song and a real song?


1 comment:

Unknown said...

I have fallen in love with this chapter, translated masterfully!