There is no climax in Ambition's scope,
Behold her wrestling with the angel, Hope,
And beating back the Demon of Despair,
Yet looking for a brighter crown to wear;
Despair enchains her, Hope her transient guest,
Unfurls her wings, and leaves her still unblest;
But naught can keep her quenchless ardor back;
She bears the struggling Demon in her track,
Mounts on the wind's wild wings, her zeal on fire;
And treads the paths to which her dreams aspire.
She goeth forth to conquer, and the fall
Of giant empires, and the leveled wall
Of each strong city, bathed in human blood,
Lift up their voices, 'till from where they stood
Goes forth the oft-repeated, mournful cry
Of: "Fallen! fallen! fallen!" whose reply
Is peal on peal of victory's bugle blast
In echoing cadence, dying out at last;
But what to her is triumph but a force
To spur her onward in her upward course?
Lo, as the last proud empire mourns her fall,
Ambition weeps that she hath conquered--all,
Lifts up her hands, that earth can never feel,
And pants for other worlds to conquer still.
She goeth forth, new countries to explore,
Dark miles of inland and untrampled shore
She breaks upon, and her enkindled seal,
Like a bright torch, their rayless mines reveal.
Into the vaults of Time, she penetrates,
And knowledge, new, discovers and creates;
Braves the wild jungle with unfaltering breath,
And speeds unguarded to the daws of death;
Defies the poisoned arrows, in her way,
Of fiendish human beasts that scent their prey,
Faces the dread contagion of disease,
If in each awful guise, new light she sees
Bursts forth again, with priceless treasure fraught,
Stars to illume the broad realm of thought.
But does she then recline in peace content,
Her zeal consumed, her fadeless ardor spent?
No. While the life-blood surges in her veins,
Her zeal revives, her ardor bright remains.
A captive in the palace-courts of ease,
With strengthening aim, her restless powers she frees.
Willingly are the silken fetters torn
In pride and boasting, by so many worn,
Gladly she speeds the glittering portal through
And greets the triumph that her steps pursue.
She gathereth in the gold of Ophir bright--
Food to her mind and beauty to her sight,
She layeth up the treasures of the mine
No more in grandeur's coronet to shine;
On her bright store, no prying eye may gaze,
That swift increases with the fleeting days.
No eye may know its beauty but her own;
She revels in her treasure-house alone,
And grudges the mere pittance that sustains
The blighted mind and body that remains.
"More! More!" her cry, and eager is her clasp,
O'er added riches falling in her grasp--
On gold, gold, gold, her energies must feed;
But gold has failed to satisfy her greed.
Her riches, like some youth-immortal tree
Grow up--she perishes in poverty.
She delves in Wisdom's boundless, peopled realm,
Resplendent hopes, her youthful sense o'erwhelm,
With living beings, do her thoughts converse,
Who throng the romance of the universe.
She treads, a victor, through each starry host,
And sails the cloud-locked seas from coast to coast;
On the ignoble earth, her mind reflects,
And finds new food in Time's long-buried wrecks.
She culls the simplest blossom from the stalk
And finds it grander that the greatest rock.
She muses on the human frame, divine,
And cries: "O man, what architect is thine?"
And marvels that one dares to desecrate
The temple that he never could create.
Through the rich realm of knowledge, on she speeds
Nor stops to question where her pathway leads.
Jungles of thought, she struggles bravely through,
Emerges, but to plunge into a new;
Hungering still for knowledge, as at first,
While each fresh draught does but increase her thirst,
Starving for higher, loftier, grander themes;
No climax glitters in her loftiest dreams.
She grasps her pen, her glittering pen of gold
Set with its diamonds, bright, a thousand-fold: Truth, deadless truth, would she write down for men,
Sprinkled with beauty, from her glowing pen.
The years have brought their bitter and their sweet,
Nations have cast their laurels at her feet,
Her name is written on Fame's rising-stars,
But, to and fro, behind its prison bars
Like a caged bird, each fluttering impulse flies,
In hopeless hope to pierce the farthest skies;
Beating their very lives out in their round
And falling, helpless, hopeless, to the ground,
Like a sharp dagger, in her fluttering heart,
Is her bright pen, so glorious at the start;
When sweet success, so lavish in the past,
Crowns not each effort, brighter than the last,
She sweeps the canvas, and fair forms are there,
Instinct with life, they seem, in vital air;
Sweet roses bloom and feathered songsters sing
And ivy garlands to old ruins cling.
Ships (angel pinioned) ride the dark blue waves
Or dash in lonesome wrecks above their graves;
And beings live, immortal as her art,
To touch the well-springs of the human heart.
She casts her brush aside, her grief to quell.
Where is the magic of that secret spell?
What! are success's dreams so quickly o'er
When each is not more glorious than before?
She strings her viol to the western breeze;
She presses, joyfully, the ivory keys:
And waves roll in upon the sandy beach.
Her dreams suggest such notes she cannot reach,
Beyond her grasp, they roll and rise and surge
And break on imagery's farthest verge;
She hangs her harp upon the willows, then,
And sighs that naught can be, but what has been.
She lifts her voice in pure and soulful song.
She steals some notes that to the birds belong.
But voice, divine and human, like a link
'Twixt earth and Heaven, yet to earth must sink.
Daughters of music, this your knell of woe.
Wafted to Heaven, then to earth brought low.
Ambition, what can now thy longing bless
When all thy powers are lost in feebleness?
She sways the mortal mind with golden speech,
Her words are jeweled vessels, launched to reach
The farthest shore that reason can command,
And bring back precious cargoes to her hand.
Unsatisfied, Ambition's dreams eclipse
The deepest waters where her bright oar dips.
Each effort's climax is the throne from whence
She mourns the fall of human excellence.
She gazes out, with clear prophetic eye
On avenues, that plain before her lie.
She reads the longings of her throbbing heart.
She sees the vanity of human art,
Whose glittering future, howeoe'er sublime
Is prisoned by the narrow walls of Time;
Whose triumphs are but mockeries, at last,
Like faded, withered garlands of the past.
She sees the devotee of fame and pride
Turn from her brightest crown, unsatisfied.
She sees the conqueror at last deplore
The glories of his final victory o'er;
And all, yes, all, of fleeting Time's success,
Sinks down to failure and to nothingness;
When o'er their sunset hath no glad hope dawned
To whisper of a brighter day beyond:
She turns away from Time's decaying things
And casts her crown before the King of Kings;
Her riches, honor, glory, power, and might,
She lays them down with all their earthly blight:
He rends for her Time's heavy curtain through, Eternity lies bright before her view;
As a small inlet of the ocean's shore
Seems the great future, she beheld before
Like stormless, boundless seas before her roll
Through Him, her leader, more than conqueror;
Treasures, unfading, glitter now for her,
Her feet may pace this lonely planet round
But still the universe lies bright beyond.
Her mind may grasp earth's knowledge, but before, Wisdom reserves a deeper, loftier lore,
Exhaustless as the ocean's full supply
Of freshening moisture, unto earth and sky,
Glad rays of light upon her path descend.
Ambition grasps her never-ending end;
Changes a narrow cell with bolted door,
For glory unto glory, evermore.