The Man from Snowy River, by A. B. Paterson

Ambition and Art


I am the maid of the lustrous eyes

  Of great fruition,

Whom the sons of men that are over-wise

  Have called Ambition.

And the world’s success is the only goal

  I have within me;

The meanest man with the smallest soul

  May woo and win me.

For the lust of power and the pride of place

  To all I proffer.

Wilt thou take thy part in the crowded race

  For what I offer?

The choice is thine, and the world is wide —

  Thy path is lonely.

I may not lead and I may not guide —

  I urge thee only.

I am just a whip and a spur that smites

  To fierce endeavour.

In the restless days and the sleepless nights

  I urge thee ever.

Thou shalt wake from sleep with a startled cry,

  In fright upleaping

At a rival’s step as it passes by

  Whilst thou art sleeping.

Honour and truth shall be overthrown

  In fierce desire;

Thou shalt use thy friend as a stepping-stone

  To mount thee higher.

When the curtain falls on the sordid strife

  That seemed so splendid,

Thou shalt look with pain on the wasted life

  That thou hast ended.

Thou hast sold thy life for a guerdon small

  In fitful flashes;

There has been reward — but the end of all

  Is dust and ashes.

For the night has come and it brings to naught

  Thy projects cherished,

And thine epitaph shall in brass be wrought —

  ‘He lived and perished.’


I wait for thee at the outer gate,

  My love, mine only;

Wherefore tarriest thou so late

  While I am lonely.

Thou shalt seek my side with a footstep swift,

  In thee implanted

Is the love of Art and the greatest gift

  That God has granted.

And the world’s concerns with its rights and wrongs

  Shall seem but small things —

Poet or painter, a singer of songs,

  Thine art is all things.

For the wine of life is a woman’s love

  To keep beside thee;

But the love of Art is a thing above —

  A star to guide thee.

As the years go by with thy love of Art

  All undiminished,

Thou shalt end thy days with a quiet heart —

  Thy work is finished.

So the painter fashions a picture strong

  That fadeth never,

And the singer singeth a wond’rous song

  That lives for ever.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59