Monday, December 5, 2011

My family, my nature, my first voyage


            I was born on the last day of the full moon in the year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family, tho’ not of that country, my father being a foreigner who had fled the Prince-Archbishopric of Bremen and settled first at Hull.  He got a good estate by merchandise, and leaving off his trade, lived afterwards at York, from whence he had married my mother, whose relations were named Robinson and from whom I was called Robinson Kreisszahn.  By the usual corruption of words in England we are now called, nay we call ourselves, and write our name, Crusoe.
            I had two elder brothers, both of the same bloodline and inheritance as myself. One was lieutenant-colonel to an English regiment of foot in Flanders, commanded by the famous Colonel Lockhart, and was killed at the battle near Dunkirk when he was run thru with a silver saber.  What became of my second brother I was never told, though I was led to guess he had succumb'd to the life of the beast afore I was old enough to know him.
            Being the third son of the family, and bred with the wild blood of my sire, my head began to be fill’d very early with rambling thoughts.  My father had given me a competent share of learning and designed me for the law.  But I would be satisfied with nothing but going to sea.  My inclination led me so strongly against the commands of my father, and against all the entreaties and persuasions of my mother and other friends, that there seemed to be something fatal in that propension of nature, tending to the life of misery which was to befall me.
            My father, a wise and grave man, gave me serious counsel one morning against what he foresaw was my design.  He asked me what reasons more than a mere wandering inclination I had for leaving his house and my native country, where I had a prospect of raising my fortune by application and industry, with a life of ease and safety.  Mine, he said, was a life of legend hidden by necessity.  One ruled by the Moon and her brilliance, one which he had found was best suited to a quiet life of stability and routine.  He bid me observe it and I should always find the calamities of life were shared among the upper and lower part of mankind.  The middle station had the fewest disasters.  Peace and plenty were the handmaids of a middle fortune.  This way men went silently and smoothly through the world and comfortably out of it.  Not embarrassed with the labours of the hands or of the head.  Not harassed with perplexed circumstances, which rob the soul of peace, and the body of rest.  Nor hunted by the mobs of townsfolk and churchmen.  Not enraged with the animal passion of the beast or the secret hunger for flesh.
            After this he press’d me earnestly, and in the most affectionate manner, not to play the young man, not to precipitate myself into miseries which the life I was born in provided against.  He would do well for me and endeavour to enter me fairly into the station of life which he had been just recommending to me. To close, he told me I had my elder brother for an example, to whom he had used the same earnest persuasions to keep him from going into the Low Country wars, but could not prevail, his young desires prompting him to run into the army, where he was killed.  Tho’ my father said he would not cease to pray for me, yet he would venture to say to me that if I did take this foolish step God would not bless me, and I would have leisure hereafter to reflect upon having neglected his counsel, when there might be none to assist in my control or recovery.
            I observ’d, in this last part of his discourse, the tears run down his face very plentifully, especially when he spoke of my brother who was kill’d.  When he spoke of my having none to assist me, he was so moved he broke off the discourse and told me his heart was so full he could say no more to me.
            I was sincerely affected with this discourse, as indeed who could be otherwise?  I resolv’d not to think of going abroad any more, but to settle at home according to my father's desire.  But, alas! a few days wore it all off.  In short, to prevent any of my father's further importunities, a few weeks after I resolv’d to run quite away from him...

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