Thursday, February 12, 2009

Today In History - The Saving of a Monarch

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.

You may have heard or read those words before, I know they are familiar to me, but the truth be told I never knew to whom they referred or the why of them. As a matter of fact, I never read the rest of the poem, and as can already been seen in the second stanza, being monarch of all you survey may not be such a good thing as you might expect:

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.

On this day in history in 1709, the reign of that monarch in "this horrible place" finally came to its long hoped for end when Alexander Selkirk departed Juan Fernandez Island off the coast of Chile. His stay there had been a lonely one as a castaway, a long lonely one. He had been on the island for about 4 years and 4 months without another soul to keep him company.

While my guess is that you are not likely familiar with the exploits of Selkirk, or indeed even with mention of his name, you are most probably quite familiar with the name of the fictional character whose time stranded on a desert island was probably based upon Selkirk's real life ordeal. You see, Selkirk was likely the inspiration for Daniel DeFoe's Robinson Crusoe. My guess is you have heard the Crusoe name before. After reading the brief account of Selkirk's time on the island, and after reading a poem he supposedly wrote about it, I have to say he was a strong willed man to have toughed it out, especially after twice finding it necessary to hide from possible antagonists who landed on the island before his rescue. Talk about Survivorman - this was the real deal. Check out the references below to learn a bit more about the man, the real Robinson Crusoe!

All the best,
Glenn B

references:

http://www.historynet.com/today_in_history

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Selkirk

http://www.poeticbyway.com/xcowper.htm for the complete poem supposedly penned by Selkirk himself.
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