The Man From Snowy River and Other Verses

Ambition and Art

Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson


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.

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