Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
Ambition
By John Neal (1793–1876)
 
I LOVED to hear the war-horn cry,
    And panted at the drum’s deep roll;
And held my breath, when—flaming high—
I saw our starry banners fly,
As challenging the haughty sky,        5
    They went like battle o’er my soul:
  For I was so ambitious then,
  I burn’d to be the slave—of men.
 
I stood and saw the morning light,
    A standard swaying far and free,        10
And loved it like the conqu’ring flight
Of angels floating wide and bright
Above the stars, above the fight
    Where nations warr’d for liberty.
  And thought I heard the battle cry        15
  Of trumpets in the hollow sky.
 
I sail’d upon the dark-blue deep:
    And shouted to the eaglet soaring;
And hung me from a rocking steep,
When all but spirits were asleep;        20
And oh, my very soul would leap
    To hear the gallant waters roaring;
  For every sound and shape of strife
  To me, was but the breath of life.
 
But, I am strangely alter’d now—        25
    I love no more the bugle voice—
The rushing wave—the plunging prow—
The mountain with his clouded brow—
The thunder when his blue skies bow,
    And all the sons of God rejoice—        30
  I love to dream of tears and sighs
  And shadowy hair and half-shut eyes.
 
 
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