Careful Words

ambition (n.)

ambition (v.)

Awake, my St. John! leave all meaner things

To low ambition and the pride of kings.

Let us (since life can little more supply

Than just to look about us, and to die)

Expatiate free o'er all this scene of man;

A mighty maze! but not without a plan.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744): Essay on Man. Epistle i. Line 1.

Low ambition and the thirst of praise.

William Cowper (1731-1800): Table Talk. Line 591.

Such joy ambition finds.

John Milton (1608-1674): Paradise Lost. Book iv. Line 92.

I charge thee, fling away ambition:

By that sin fell the angels.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616): King Henry VIII. Act iii. Sc. 2.

What is your sex's earliest, latest care,

Your heart's supreme ambition? To be fair.

Lord Lyttleton (1709-1773): Advice to a Lady.

But wild Ambition loves to slide, not stand,

And Fortune's ice prefers to Virtue's land.

John Dryden (1631-1701): Absalom and Achitophel. Part i. Line 198.

O fading honours of the dead!

O high ambition, lowly laid!

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832): Lay of the Last Minstrel. Canto ii. Stanza 10.

When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:

Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616): Julius Caesar. Act iii. Sc. 2.

Praise enough

To fill the ambition of a private man,

That Chatham's language was his mother tongue.

William Cowper (1731-1800): The Task. Book ii. The Timepiece. Line 235.

Written in a glass window obvious to the Queen's eye. "Her Majesty, either espying or being shown it, did under-write, 'If thy heart fails thee, climb not at all.'"—Fuller: Worthies of England, vol. i. p. 419.

Who does i' the wars more than his captain can

Becomes his captain's captain; and ambition,

The soldier's virtue, rather makes choice of loss,

Than gain which darkens him.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616): Antony and Cleopatra. Act iii. Sc. 1.

Thriftless ambition, that wilt ravin up

Thine own life's means!

William Shakespeare (1564-1616): Macbeth. Act ii. Sc. 4.

Here we may reign secure; and in my choice

To reign is worth ambition, though in hell:

Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.

John Milton (1608-1674): Paradise Lost. Book i. Line 261.

O, now, for ever

Farewell the tranquil mind! farewell content!

Farewell the plumed troop and the big wars

That make ambition virtue! O, farewell!

Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump,

The spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife,

The royal banner, and all quality,

Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!

And, O you mortal engines, whose rude throats

The immortal Jove's dread clamours counterfeit,

Farewell! Othello's occupation's gone!

William Shakespeare (1564-1616): Othello. Act iii. Sc. 3.

Besides, this Duncan

Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been

So clear in his great office, that his virtues

Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against

The deep damnation of his taking-off;

And pity, like a naked new-born babe,

Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubim, horsed

Upon the sightless couriers of the air,

Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,

That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur

To prick the sides of my intent, but only

Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself,

And falls on the other.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616): Macbeth. Act i. Sc. 7.