The Row Boat’s epigraph is “Had we but world enough, and time…” Originally, the words came from the seventeenth century English poem by Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress.” Speaking to a lover, the poem wants to roll a whole future of possibilities into a ball of the present moment. However, I come by this second hand. I robbed it from the epigraph of Mimesis, Erich Auerbach’s classic study of representation in Western literature.
Auerbach’s voice in Mimesis is one of melancholic memory. As Edward Said pointed out, the German-Jewish Auerbach wrote the book while exiled in Turkey after the rise of Nazism. Written without secondary texts on hand, Mimesis is a meandering exploration of the primary and the endless possibilities for its unfolding. By the end we know that, like Marvell’s love affair, this book could have gone on forever.
So also could The Row Boat. These words nudge toward an impossible wish to explore every possible world, irresponsibly if necessary. To keep looking until the truth is found in each solitary thing. If the discussion seems hopelessly uncommitted, that appears to be the cost. If it strays into conclusions, I have been stayed too long by some siren call.