Wilhelm Dinesen


travel, sailing, Native Americans


It was in the late summer of 1872 when I traveled to America. I was sick of soul. I had participated in the Franco-Prussian War, had seen my hopes for redress of [ the Danish defeat of] 1864 shattered, and had then been a witness to the civil war in Paris. I was nauseated by both sides, had then lived in both Denmark and France, but I felt uncomfortable, restless, tired, worn out, weak. I doubted my own ability to achieve anything whatever, and then came some personal problems-and I gave up everything and went to America. What I thought I needed was work, compulsory, daily labor, physical exertion. At that time, it was not so clear to me as it is now that what I really needed most of all was rest, otherwise I would have headed right straight out to the flat, endless prairies under a cloudless, blue sky, where everything was grass, grass, and only grass, as far as the eye could see, or I would have found refuge in the deep, heavy, dark forests, where one can roam for days without seeing a single creature, without hearing a sound, not even a puff of wind through the trees. Someone who has not tried it, who has not been alone-all alone-many, many miles from the nearest person, does not know how beneficial the peace of the forest primeval can be. It was up in the virgin forests of Wisconsin that I settled down for a couple of years, but I only got there after taking some detours, which I shall now allow myself to tell about.