I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known,--cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honor'd of them all,--
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy. ...
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this grey spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
Mr. Roosevelt took his defeat without whimpering. When he was in a
fight he gave blows and expected to receive them. His enemies
often hit foul blows, and this his friends resented, especially
when the attacks actually provoked an attempt at murder. When his
private character was assailed he defended himself, promptly and
successfully. But neither he nor any of his friends asked that he
should be sacred from all criticism; nor feebly protested that he
was above ordinary mortals, and only to be mentioned with a sort
of trembling reverence. He was too much of a man to be kept
wrapped in wool.
In 1913 he traveled through South American countries to speak
before learned bodies which had invited him to come before them.
Afterwards, with his son Kermit, some American naturalists, and
Colonel Rondon, a brave and distinguished Brazilian officer, he
made a long trip through the wilderness of Brazil, to hunt and
explore. Some of the country through which they traveled was
little known to white men; some of it absolutely unknown. They
hunted and killed specimens of the jaguar, tapir, peccary, and
nearly all of the other strange South American animals.
In February 1914, they set out upon an unknown stream called the
River of Doubt. They did not know whether the exploration of this
river would take them weeks or months; whether they might have to
face starvation, or savage tribes, or worse than either, disease.
They surveyed the river as they went, so as to be able to map its
course, and add to geographical knowledge. Strange birds haunted
the river, and vicious stinging insects annoyed the travelers.
They constantly had to carry the canoes around rapids or
waterfalls, so that progress was slow. Some of the canoes were
damaged and others had to be built. Large birds, like the
curassow, and also monkeys, were shot for food. The pest of
stinging insects grew constantly worse,--bees, mosquitoes, large
blood-sucking flies and enormous ants tormented them. The flies
were called piums and borashudas. Some of them bit like scorpions.
Kermit Roosevelt's canoe was caught in the rapids, smashed and
sunk, and one of the men drowned. Once they saw signs of some
unknown tribe of Indians, when, one of the dogs belonging to the
party was killed in the forest, almost within sight of Colonel
Rondon, and found with two arrows in his body. The river was
dangerous for bathing, because of a peculiar fish--the piranha--a
savage little beast which attacks men and animals with its razor-
like teeth, inflicts fearful wounds and may even kill any
unfortunate creature which is caught by a school in deep water.
Some members of the party were badly bitten by the piranhas.
As their long and difficult course down the river continued, and
as their hardships increased, one of the native helpers murdered
another native--a sergeant--and fled. Roosevelt, while in the
water helping to right an upset canoe, bruised his leg against a
boulder. Inflammation set in, as it usually does with wounds in
the tropics. For forty-eight days they saw no human being outside
their own party. They were all weak with fever and troubled with
wounds received in the river. Colonel Roosevelt (who was nearly
fifty-six years old) wrote of his own condition:
The after effects of the fever still hung on; and the leg which
had been hurt while working in the rapids with the sunken canoe
had taken a turn for the bad and developed an abscess. The good
doctor, to whose unwearied care and kindness I owe much, had cut
it open and inserted a drainage tube; an added charm being given
the operation, and the subsequent dressings, by the enthusiasm
with which the piums and boroshudas took part therein. I could
hardly hobble, and was pretty well laid up. "But there aren't no
'stop conductor,' while a battery's changing ground." No man has
any business to go on such a trip as ours unless he will refuse to
jeopardize the welfare of his associates by any delay caused by a
weakness or ailment of his. It is his duty to go forward, if
necessary on all fours, until he drops. Fortunately, I was put to
no such test. I remained in good shape until we had passed the
last of the rapids of the chasms. When my serious trouble came we
had only canoe-riding ahead of us. It is not ideal for a sick man
to spend the hottest hours of the day stretched on the boxes in
the bottom of a small open dugout, under the well-nigh intolerable
heat of the torrid sun of the mid-tropics, varied by blinding,
drenching downpours of rain, but I could not be sufficiently
grateful for the chance. Kermit and Cherrie took care of me as if
they had been trained nurses; and Colonel Rondon and Lyra were no
less thoughtful. [Footnote: "Through the Brazilian Wilderness," p.
It is known that his illness was more serious, and his conduct
much more unselfish than he told in his book. When he could not be
moved, he asked the others to go forward for their own safety and
leave him. They refused, naturally, and he secretly resolved to
shoot himself if his condition did not soon improve, rather than
be a drag on the party. In his report to the Brazilian Government,
which had made the expedition possible by its aid, Mr. Roosevelt
was able to say:
"We have put on the map a river about 1500 kilometers in length
running from just south of the 13th degree to north of the 5th
degree and the biggest affluent of the Madeira. Until now its
upper course has been utterly unknown to every one, and its lower
course, although known for years to the rubber men, utterly
unknown to cartographers."
The Brazilian Government renamed the river in his honor, first the
Rio Roosevelt, later the Rio Teodoro. Branches of it were named in
honor of other members of the party, the Rio Kermit and the Rio
Cherrie,--the latter for the American naturalist, Mr. George K.