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Albert Pike

(1809-1891 / USA)

To Ambition


Cry on! full well I know the voice,
For often it hath called on me,
Stirring my passions with the noise,
As tempests stir the hungering sea.
Cry on, ambition! 'tis in vain!
Thine influence hath passed away,
And mighty though thou art, again
Thou canst not bend me to thy sway.

Thou wakest dreams of fame and power;
Ha! I despise both thee and them;
They were illusions of an hour,
Mere shadows now, remote and dim;
I scorn them all: they wake no thrill
Within the heart where once they reigned
And revelled, and would revel still,
But smote by love, Ambition waned.

For what is fame, that man should pour
His life-blood for it, drop by drop;
And for a name, when life is o'er,
Drain to the dregs misfortune's cup?
Fame! 'tis the wrecker's light, that lures
The luckless wanderer of the deep,
To where, upon disastrous shores,
Ruin and wreck their vigils keep.

To waste away the burning heart,
Pouring its bright thoughts on the sand
Of the regardless world; to part
With mad and suicidal hand,
The ties that bind to life, and tread
The desert of the world alone;
To leave no soul, when we are dead,
Of grief for us to make one moan.

To be the mark for every base
And slanderous miscreant's venomed tongue,
Hissed at by all the adder race,
Their poison on my garments flung:
My fair fame recklessly defiled
With every crawling reptile's slime;
Slandered, belied, abused, reviled,
Each action tortured into crime.

To fill the heart with scathing fire
And bitter passions; to erase
The feelings holier and higher
Which ruled there in our earlier days;
To make the soil a desert, burned
And blasted with remorseless flame;
To be, at Life's best hour, inured
Within this living death, called Fame:

Will Fame, will Power, repay for this?
Cry on, then!—Even now I feel
The infant hands of happiness
Around my heart-strings gently steal,
And well I know that Fame has nought,
Or Power, to pay the sacrifice,
If with this happiness I bought
Their glorious uncertainties.

Give me Love's smile, my wife's fond eye,
To light the pathway of my life;
And vainly may Ambition cry,
And urge me to the stirring strife:
I would not sell my quiet home,
And those I love, for all the fame
Of all the mighty who entomb
Their sorrows in a splendid name.

Submitted: Monday, February 24, 2014
Edited: Monday, February 24, 2014

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