Must all ambition wither to dismay
When once it wrought a purpose ever clear,
Or is the fault my own that bygone days
Have perished with the hopes I held so dear?
What ends are lost into the fetid mire
Of history reside in only dreams
Of broken men, whose torturous desires
Are bright and tangible as stars and beams
Of moonlight. Greater bards than I have fought
Their whole lives through for less, and seldom won;
The wages for a life of meaning sought
Are thus: to covet all, possessing none.
But who has never felt the sting of bold
Intention run aground, nor known the chill
Of an indifferent heart; the blood runs cold
For all we yearn to be, and never will.
And then do minds to lesser matters turn,
Forsaking passions that awoke our souls,
Or else allow our guiding lights to burn
Beyond the measure of our self-control.
Perdition comes to both the man who sought
The summit of his dreams, and met despair,
And also he whose fearful heart has wrought
Another’s destiny, to find it bare.
How swiftly we succumb to solace when
Reciting fairytales inside our heads,
And how diminished are our spirits then
To wake and find ourselves alone instead.
We court delusion to impede the flow
Of sorrow to our hearts, but time will take
Its toll, and truthfully we always know
The dream is bound to end; the dam will break,
And cleansing waters carry forth our hopes
Into the void. Once more we set about
A life bereft of fantasy, to cope
Until we cannot bear to live without.
A rare and subtle tragedy besets
A lucky few who yearn within their reach:
A lesson learned in sadness and regret
As only bitter memory can teach.
Lament for those whose prayers are answered, they
May be the most unfortunate of all;
Who dares imagine what a heart must weigh
Whose innermost desires cannot recall
Their want. But such is the unspoken truth
Inherent to us all: the human soul
Is covetous, and yet we waste our youth
In hopes that we could ever make it whole.
We do not wish to know how many lives
Are sacrificed in the pursuit of joy
Forbidden by the whims of fate; what drives
Us on if not a sacred hope destroyed
So easily by star-crossed circumstance.
Our greatest aspirations soon succumb
To the indifference of a cold expanse
That neither knows nor cares what dreams may come.
Perhaps the best of us could stand to see
Our efforts fall to ruin, in serene
Acceptance yielding their impassioned plea,
And never live to ask what might have been.
And if such rich ambitions are to reap
A sorry life of poverty, unsung
For all our pains, and thought no cause to weep
Outside of those we lived and died among –
What then were all our labours worth? If pride
Were such a feeble thing as to be quelled
By mere necessity, we might abide
A lesser life and come to live it well.
But even as we contemplate our failed
Ambition, suffering what others deem
Sublime, a common life cannot avail
Our spirits, for it falls to us to dream.
A narrative is born amid our greed,
Our gluttony and lust, our pure desire;
The framework of identity concedes
To that insatiable, pervasive fire.
We see ourselves with wretched clarity,
And to the outer world, we don a veil:
Presenting joy to hide the parity
Of bitterness and sorrow when we fail.
The story of a life cannot be free
Of anguish, nor sincere fulfilment bought,
So long as appetite can yet conceive
A pleasure in the mind the flesh has not.
We are as Icarus, our wings unbound
Amid the heat of a celestial fire:
Our storied lives are never so profound
As in the reckless seeking of desire.
As Tantalus, temptation tortures us:
Aloft without our grasp – within our view:
The harder fought our victories, and thus
The sweeter are the fruits to be our due.
And as Prometheus himself rebelled
Against the judgement of the crueller gods,
So too are we relentlessly compelled
To flee the path unfeeling souls have trod.
What modicum of failure can befall
A spirit so inclined to overreach;
Too few are truly unafraid to fall,
And solemn is the honour owed to each.
For trophies and acclaim are often held
The measure of a man, and by his name
The glory of his labour is upheld –
How many nameless souls deserve the same?
Is there nobility in failure, when
The sum of our regard is thought so small?
If your integrity is doubtless, then
Consider: you have never failed at all.
Ambition so profound that sanity
Abides in doubt is something to admire,
For nothing more becomes humanity
Than courting that untempered flame – desire.
A tale is told of laughter and despair,
And soon becomes the story of our lives;
How comedy and tragedy compare
Is little but how long the dream survives.
For if we have the courage to preserve
That gentle hope, what kingdoms we might earn;
And then, with a contented smile, observe:
How human, how divine it is to yearn.
A devil’s burden though it often seems,
Perhaps we are the nobler for our dreams.