16th April 2024

Alexander Selkirk inspired these fêted poets and writers

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Alexander Selkirk was born in Scotland in 1676. He went to become a sailor. Aboard the Cinque Ports, the crew came to the uninhabited island of Más a Tierra off the coast of Chile. Selkirk was abandoned by the captain when he questioned the seaworthiness of the ship. He was rescued after four years. His story is said to have inspired Daniel Defoe who in 1719 wrote The Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. In 1782 the poem Solitude of Alexander Selkirk was written by William Cowper. The famous first line of the poem is ‘I am the monarch of all that I survey’. Another famous line of the poem ‘Society, friendship and love is divinely bestowed upon man’ is said to have influenced Tagore’s Ebar Phirao More, and in particular the statement ‘Sartho magno je jan bimukh brihat jagat hote, se kakhono sekheni bachite’ which essentially means that one who is self-centred and withdrawn from the greater world has not learnt to live. Charles Dickens also referred to Cowper’s poem in the Pickwick Papers.

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