( Originally Published 1879 )
"And scorn delights and live laborious days."
SOME conceited wights, who study party politics more than philosophy or ethics, call all the laudable desires of the human heart ambition, aiming to strip the monster of its deformity, that they may use it as the livery of heaven to serve the devil in. The former are based on philanthropy, the latter on selfishness. Lexicographers define ambition to be an earnest desire of power, honor, preferment, pride. The honor that is awarded to power is of doubtful grandeur, and the power that is acquired by ambition is held by a slender tenure, a mere rope of sand. Its hero often receives the applause of the multitude one day, and its execrations the next. The summit of vain ambition is often the depth of misery. Based on a sandy foundation, it falls before the blasts of envy, and the tornado of faction. It is inflated by a gaseous thirst for power, like a balloon with hydrogen, and is in constant danger of being exploded by the very element that causes its elevation. It eschews charity, and deals largely in the corrosive sublimate of falsehood. Like the kite, it cannot rise in a calm, and requires a constant wind to preserve its upward course. The fulcrum of ignorance, and the lever of party spirit, form its magic power. An astute writer has well observed, that "ambition makes the same mistake concerning power, that avarice makes relative to wealth." The ambitious man begins by accumulating it as the desideratum of happiness, and ,ends his career in the midst of exertions to obtain more. So ended the onward and up-ward career of Napoleon; his life a modern wonder; his fate a fearful warning; his death a scene of gloom. Power is gained as a means of enjoyment, but oftener than otherwise, is its fell destroyer. Like the viper in the fable, it is prone to sting those who warm it into life. History fully demonstrates these propositions. Hyder Ali was in the habit of starting frightfully in his sleep. His confidential friend and attendant asked the reason. He replied: "My friend, the state of a beggar is more delightful than my envied monarchy—awake, he sees no conspirators—asleep, he dreams of no assassins." Ambition, like the gold of the miser, is the sepulchre of the other passions of the man. It is the grand centre around which they move with centripetal force. Its history is one of carnage and blood; it is the bane of substantial good; it endangers body and soul for time and eternity. Reader, if you desire peace of mind, shun ambition and the ambitious man. He will use you as some men do 'their horses, ride you all day without food, and give you post meat for supper. He will gladly make a bridge of you on which to walk into power, provided he can pass toll free. Let your aim be more lofty than the highest pinnacle ambition can rear. Nothing is pure but heaven, let that be the prize you seek,
"And taste and prove in that transporting sight,
The road ambition travels is too narrow for friend-ship, too crooked for love, too rugged for honesty, too dark for science, and too hilly for happiness.