Is there a better place in this world than the bow of a boat that’s being driven through the lake by a merrily puffing wind? Like a sharp sword we slice into the future which, in this instance, is truly the glimmering sea – without any idea about our coming. On the bow of a boat we are the current moment, the present, the imminence, the power that gives birth to the next moment. The sharp-sighted Lynceus who had once stood as its guide on the bow of the Argo, his eye noticing not just the isle of Samos but also conjuring it up, as it were, from nothingness – quite as the newborn discovers the world through its first-ever cry.
So it should move ahead, life as a unique birth cry. But, alas, at some point we look backwards and thereby discover that the boat also has a tail, a stern. We see how our engineering powers ripple the waters, how our swift voyage spews a white streak of foam into the planet. But, we also see how swiftly the traces of our voyage disappear and are no longer discernible.
As much as we desire to dance with life on the bow, on the stern it sticks to us on the arse like a lame metaphor.
The only way out is the great calm – or a top-class schnapps.
Or, we can narrate the story of the navigator who stood at the helm of the Argo: Ancaeus, who, the «Encyclopaedia Britannica» of 1911 informs us, was a king of Samos, an island famous at the time for its wines. When he planted a new grapevine, a seer told him that he would never drink the wine of that grape. A little while later, the king set sail at the helm of the Argo on a series of long adventures. When he returned, hale and hearty, to his home at long last, the grapes in the royal vineyards were ripe. Ancaeus pressed some juice into a tumbler, lifted it to his lips, and spoke mockingly of the seer. (This probably gave birth to the English expression: «There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip». Its Latin counterpart in «Adagia» by Erasmus reads: «Multa cadunt inter calicem supremaque labra»). And just as he was doing so, he observed that a wild boar was destroying his estate. The king immediately set down his tumbler, seized his sword, rushed out into the field, and was promptly killed by the beast.
We still remain in the dark about the source from which the «Encyclopaedia Britannica» has drawn this wonderful legend (in the case of Apollonius of Rhodes, to whom it may refer, we search for it in vain). But we do come to learn that it is legends about men at the helm that survive, that endure for posterity. And if we wish to extract a moral from the story, it could be this: Whosoever wishes to taste a wine should be distracted from his plan by nothing – most certainly not by a wild boar plundering the garden.
First Publication: 31-8-2013