Robinson’s adventures at sea
I was born in the year 1632, in the city of York in England. My father was of a good family. He was a merchant from Bremen in Germany. He settled in England and made his fortune in trade, then he married. My mother’s family name was Robinson. I was baptised Robinson Kreutznaer. However, in England we were always called Crusoe, so my friends call me Robinson Crusoe.
I had two brothers. One became a soldier and was killed in a battle against the Spaniards. I do not know what happened to my other brother. My father hoped I would study law, but I wanted to go to sea. Although my mother and father did not want me to go, my desire was so strong that I ignored their wishes.
My father was a wise and serious man. He said that if I stayed at home my life would be easy and pleasant. Only desperate men or very fortunate men went abroad, he said. I was neither desperate nor very fortunate. Mine was the middle state, and he thought that the middle state was the best. The poor had a difficult life, and the rich were hated by the poor, said he. In the middle state a man could be happy. Kings often regretted that they were not born in the middle state, and wise men prayed to have neither poverty nor wealth. He said that the greatest misfortunes in life were suffered by the rich and the poor. Only the man in the middle state can live in peace. He said that moderation, quietness, and good health were the conditions of the middle state.
He begged me not to abandon this happy condition. He told me that he had begged my brother not to become a soldier for the same reasons. However, my brother had run away to the army, and now he was dead. He said that God would not bless me if I went to sea, and that I would be sorry I had ignored my father’s advice.
During the last part of his discourse the tears ran down his face, especially when he spoke of my brother. When he said that I would regret my choice, he was so moved that he could say no more.
I was sincerely affected by his words and decided not to think of going abroad any more. But alas! In a few days I began to dream of the sea again. I spoke to my mother. I told her that I still desired to go to sea and that nothing else would make me happy. I said that I was eighteen years old, too old to begin another profession. I asked her to persuade my father to let me go to sea.
This made her very angry. She said that it would be useless to speak to my father. If I wanted to ruin myself, she said, there was nothing she or my father could do to stop me. However, they would never agree to it.
A year later, I ran off to sea. This is how it happened. One day I went to the port of Hull. A friend of mine was going by sea to London in his father’s ship. He asked me to go with him. Since it would cost me nothing, I decided to go, without even telling my mother and father. Thus on the first of September 1651 I went on board a ship for the first time.
As soon as the ship was at sea, the wind began to blow. I felt very sick and frightened. I thought that God was punishing me for leaving my father’s house. The storm grew worse, although it was not as bad as many I have seen since. It was not even as bad as the storm I saw just a few days later, but it frightened me then. I thought the sea would swallow us. I swore to God that, if I lived, I would return to my father’s house and never go to sea again.
The next day the sea grew calm and the sun shone. I no longer felt sick or frightened. My friend said. ‘Well, Bob, how do you feel? Were you afraid?’
«It was a terrible storm,» said I.
‘Do you call that a storm?’ said he. ‘That was nothing. Let’s drink some rum and forget about it.’
We drank the rum, and I forgot my promise to God. A few days later, there was a really terrible storm. The waves were as high as mountains. I was very frightened. I felt sorry that I had forgotten my promise to God.
The sailors began to cry out that the ship would founder. Fortunately, I did not know what the word ‘founder’ meant. I saw the captain and some others praying to God. At last we were rescued by a boat from another ship. As we escaped, we saw our own ship go down. It was only then that I understood the word ‘founder’.
When we reached the shore, the people were very kind to us. They gave us money to return to Hull or continue to London, as we pleased. If I had returned home, I would have been happy. My father, like the father in Christ’s story of the prodigal son, would have welcomed me. But I was foolish, and I did not go home.
The captain, who was my father’s friend, said to me, ‘Young man, you should never go to sea again.’
‘Why, sir?’ said I. ‘Will you never go to sea again?’
‘That is different,’ said the captain. ‘The sea is my profession. It is my duty to go to sea. But you made this voyage to see if you liked it. God has shown you that the sea is not for you. Perhaps that is why my ship foundered. You are like Jonah of the Bible story. I am sorry I ever allowed you on my ship!’