February 2nd (1709) – Regretful beachcomber Alexander Selkirk is rescued.
Selkirk’s sojourn inspired Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, regarded as the first genuine English novel, and the following poem by William Cowper:
Alexander Selkirk during his Solitary Abode in the Island of Juan Fernandez
I am monarch of all I survey;
My right there is none to dispute;
From the centre all round to the sea
I am lord of the fowl and the brute.
O Solitude! where are the charms
That sages have seen in thy face?
Better dwell in the midst of alarms
Than reign in this horrible place.
I am out of humanity’s reach,
I must finish my journey alone,
Never hear the sweet music of speech;
I start at the sound of my own.
The beasts that roam over the plain
My form with indifference see;
They are so unacquainted with man,
Their tameness is shocking to me.
Society, Friendship, and Love,
Divinely bestow’d upon man,
O had I the wings of a dove,
How soon would I taste you again!
My sorrows I then might assuage
In the ways of religion and truth,
Might learn from the wisdom of age,
And be cheer’d by the sallies of youth.
Ye winds that have made me your sport,
Convey to this desolate shore
Some cordial endearing report
Of a land I shall visit no more!
My friends, do they now and then send
A wish or a thought after me?
O tell me I yet have a friend,
Though a friend I am never to see.
How fleet is a glance of the mind!
Compared with the speed of its flight,
The tempest itself lags behind,
And the swift wingèd arrows of light.
When I think of my own native land,
In a moment I seem to be there;
But alas! recollection at hand
Soon hurries me back to despair.
But the sea-fowl has gone to her nest,
The beast is laid down in his lair;
Even here is a season of rest,
And I to my cabin repair.
There’s mercy in every place;
And mercy, encouraging thought!
Gives even affliction a grace,
And reconciles man to his lot.
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